The new video for country singer Jason Aldean’s song “Try That in a Small Town” takes place outside a Tennessee courthouse where an 18-year-old black man is attacked and lynched by a mob.
Mr. Aldean came under fire after posting the video, which included violent news footage of looting and unrest during protests in American cities. Country Music Television pulled the video this week after accusations surfaced on social media that its lyrics and message were offensive.
“I think there is a lack of sensitivity when using this courtroom as a prop,” said Cheryl L. Kyes, chair of African American Studies and professor of ethnomusic at UCLA.
Lynched teen Henry Shute had traveled from his home in Coffee County, Tennessee, where he worked as a road builder, to visit his grandfather in nearby Maury County on November 11, 1927—Armistice Day, as it was known at the time, or Veterans Day today.
While there, he was accused—falsely, historians now believe—of the rape of a 16-year-old white girl.
According to an account in “Calling and Frame Executions in Tennessee”.In a book by Robert Minor published in 1946, the county sheriff was contacted by the girl’s family, who responded by raising a pack of hounds to track down the girl’s attacker.
Before the hounds arrived, however, a group of whites went to Mr. Choate’s grandfather’s house, “called” Mr. Choate and took him to the girl, who, according to Mr. Minor’s book, did not identify him as her attacker.
Once the hounds were brought in, they “gave scent” on a street called Hicks Lane, where the attack was alleged to have taken place. But the smell did not lead the dogs to Mr. Choate’s grandfather’s house.
Instead, “the trail faded in another direction,” wrote Mr. Minor, “and the girl said again that she did not recognize Henry Choate as her attacker.”
However, one of the men announced that he had seen Mr. Choate return to his grandfather’s house from the direction of Hicks Lane. Mr. Choate’s arms were bound with ropes and he was led away. In the end, he was handed over to the sheriff, who arrested him.
After Mr. Choate was brought to the jail, a cook there told him to pray because “the mob is coming to kill you,” according to Mr. Minor’s book.
“I know they are,” said Mr. Choate.
According to Mr. Minor’s account, a mob of white men gathered outside the prison, demanding the keys. Mr. Maynor wrote that the sheriff’s wife, with whom the sheriff had left the keys, refused at first because she thought Mr. Choate innocent.
The mob attempted twice to enter the prison, but failed, according to a contemporary account of the episode in The Tennessean.
Mr. Minor wrote that one of the gang members left and returned with a sledgehammer and began banging on the prison door.
Fearing that the mob would dynamit the jail, the sheriff’s wife relented, and the first deputy sheriff opened the door. Mr. Choate was struck with a sledgehammer and taken out of prison.
The mob used a rope to tie him to the bumper of a car and dragged him to the Morey County Courthouse in Columbia, Tenn., where they hanged him from a window, according to him. newscast.
There were about 250 men in the mob, according to research from University of North Carolina.
International News Service reported that two pastors, two attorneys, and James I. Finney, editor of The Tennessee, had begged members of the mob to spare Mr. Choate’s life, but to no avail.
Others denounced mob action.
The executive committee of a body called the Tennessee Interracial Commission later said in a statement that “all available information indicates that the Maury County sheriff failed to fulfill his obligations as an officer,” the Tennessee newspaper reported just over a week after the execution.
Identified in news reports at the time as Luther Wiley, the Morey County sheriff said in a statement in the days following the lynching that he was keeping his word.
“I had an agreement with the mother, the brothers, and the little girl,” he said, according to the 1927 Tennessee account, “not to take the criminal away from our county, but to give him a speedy trial.” “And I kept my promise steadfastly.”
He added that he was “overpowered by all kinds of weapons”, referring to members of the mob who armed themselves with crowbars, sledgehammers and dynamite.
In the end, a grand jury refused to indict anyone involved in the lynching, according to a December 1927 Philadelphia Tribune article.
Details of Mr. Choate’s death also resurfaced this week, Mr. Aldean He replied on Twitter to criticize his music video by denying that he had released a “pro-unlawful killing song”.
He wrote: “These references are not only unfounded, but dangerous.” “There isn’t a single lyric in the song that references or references race — not a single video clip that isn’t real news footage — and while I can try and respect others for having their own interpretation of a song with the music — this song goes a little too far.”
TackleBox Films, the company that produced the video, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alain Delaqueriere Contribute to the research.