Tenn. legislators solicit details on unsolved Civil Rights Era crimes

Dec 19, 2017

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AMANDA HAGGARD)  --  A bipartisan committee of the Tennessee State Legislature is looking into unsolved crimes from the Civil Rights era after it took legislators 14 years to agree on the idea.

Rep. Johnnie Turner, a democrat from Shelby County, serves as chair of the Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Special Joint Committee. Turner recently shared her own experiences as young, black woman in the south. She recalls that just riding a city bus could be an ordeal.

Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, and state Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, at the Dec. 14 meeting of the Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Special Joint Committee.
Credit capitol.tn.gov

“I’d get on that bus and I’d sit right behind the driver and everything was well and good until all the black people got off and I was the only black person,” Turner says. “I have been spat upon, called everything but a child of god.”

Turner says the abuse sometimes turned physical.

“On two occasions my arm was almost pulled out of its socket by a drunk … I’d be so afraid. I didn’t know if I’d make it to another day."

Stories shared with the committee have included accounts of lynchings. But prosecuting crimes isn’t necessarily part of its mandate. Instead, legislators hope to foster reconciliation between victims and perpetrators.

Turner says their goal is for everyone involved to find healing.