Author’s Note: Hello! This story takes place roughly around the timeframe of the reconstruction of the United States--about 1865-1877, give or take. This piece is set in the south during the time the K.K.K. was formed and began their terror on the African-American population. This includes burning, rape, and murder that was inflicted upon African-Americans by the K.K.K. I don’t intend to say anything rude, nor do I support any beliefs they have; I'm simply writing. Keep in mind, this story will include mentions of mass murders and people being shot at, so please read at your discretion.
I saw her. I saw the poor new widow weeping over her husband’s body. I saw him fade as she begged him to cling to life, to make it, but he slowly stopped talking and his eyes stopped blinking.
The whites that surrounded the voting booth had shot him with no hesitation. The man had only tried to vote in this trying time. He was just trying to get his voice heard and they killed him for it.
I was a small child, a mere boy, when I saw this take place. I was going for a walk, but as an African-American like myself, even that was a dangerous play. I could meet the wrath and anger of a white person who hung on to the belief that I was not equal or not even human, that I should be working in a field instead of walking freely in this town. Would anyone stop someone who was hurting me? Most people would just keep walking, thinking I deserve whatever beating I was getting. Maybe, maybe a few of my fellow citizens would try to help, but if they did it would just cause more trouble. My people could expect nothing less from anyone, living here in Texas.
I stared at the woman. Her skin was dark and she was wearing a cheap dress and a white head-wrap made from a flour bag. Her husband’s body had baggy clothes and torn up shoes. She was crying, begging, pleading for someone to help her. No one did. The fair-skinned people that surrounded the booth in their white hoods, guns drawn, just laughed. People walked by, stepped past them, went up to the booth as if nothing had ever happened.
Their wrath didn’t stop there. They shot every Black man who tried to vote that day; the bodies piled up. Soon Black men avoided the booth. They clearly intended to vote, but when they saw what was happening to their brethren, they quickly left. There were ten, maybe twenty, thirty bodies, lying there, all day.
No one called the police; the stubborn white men who called themselves justice wouldn’t have been helped anyway. The bodies just lay there. They probably had families, children, wives. If they did, I would never know. If the men in the hoods did, it would have made no difference. They wouldn’t--couldn’t--care if a Black person died. In their minds, we were pests. One less was good.
That poor woman. I don’t know how long I stood there, but it was long enough to witness numerous slaughters. Each time a gun went off, she would flinch, but not move away from her husband.
Out of nowhere, the widow screamed. I remember that scream: pure, powerful anger and hatred. A man told her to be quiet. I wanted to punch him, whoever he was, for the woman had lost her only love. But I did nothing--just stood there, helpless.
The widow still wept. I walked away because it was the only thing that I could do, but I returned sometime later in the night. By then, a few of the men in the white hoods lingered behind, though most of them had gone. The woman was still there, holding on to her husband's body. Despite the dark, I could see the shine of the trail of tears on her face. She was silent by now and held his body in her arms. I moved on; it was a sight I couldn’t bear to see.
She was still there in the morning, and the next night. She was there for days on end. The white-hooded men disappeared from the area. She didn’t move to even eat or drink. Each day you could see her get closer to the ground until she laid next to her husband and stopped breathing. Her arms wrapped around him, her cheeks streaked with shiny, salty tears.
It was days before people moved the bodies. I assumed a few rich white people got tired of the smell and sight of them, hired people to come and take them away. They were moved into what I hope was a proper place; I wished they were respectfully buried, but I knew that was too hopeful of a thing to think. The one thing I could do was pray, and hope that their souls had found peace.
I don’t think the woman did. The grieving widow was supposedly still weeping. People said that when you walked past the square, you could hear the mournful cries of a woman. People who lived by heard screams when nobody was outside. I never heard such things, so I have no idea if it was true. But that’s not where the story stops.
People saw her ghost, drifting about the square, looking dazed and confused, the tears shining on her face. White men woke up with burns on their hands; some had immense pain in their stomachs and chests. They were rumored to be the white-hooded men that terrible day. The spirit of the woman wanted revenge, to hurt those people who had hurt her. She was a vengeful spirit.
Some say the men went mad. A few claimed that the women killed them with no hesitation. I supposed it was a claim made to explain some white-men unexplainable deaths. Others claim that such a thing never happened, for spirits were not real. I have no idea if any of these things were true. I never saw the grieving ghost myself. My only hope was that she eventually was put to peace and her soul moved on but who could say?