Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Atlanta Child Murders

If you’ve been paying attention, there is great fear surrounding Chicago and the Illinois suburban area. Young women and children are going missing and are being found murdered. The murders are graphic with some of the women being found with body parts missing and found in garages. The terrifying accounts have been reported in the West, South, and suburban parts of the city. While it is starting to be shown on the news in the city now, I am not sure if it has made international news (they aren’t showing it in Georgia. I had to hear it from my sisters and the internet.)

This has brought back thoughts of The Atlanta Child Murders. I thought I’d recap what this was for those of us who may not have known.

What became known as “The Atlanta Child Murders” happened in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981, when about 29 Black children, teens, and young adults were kidnapped and murdered. A majority of the killings shared common details. In 1979, for instance, Edward Hope Smith, also known as “Teddy”, and Alfred Evans, also known as “Q”, both aged 14 and from the same apartments, disappeared four days apart. Their bodies were both found on July 28 in a wooded area, Edward with a .22 caliber gunshot wound in his upper back. They were believed to be the first victims of the “Atlanta Child Killer”.

On September 4, the next victim, 14-year-old Milton Harvey, disappeared while on an errand to a bank for his mother. He was riding a yellow bike, which was found a week later in a remote area of Atlanta. His body was not recovered until November of 1979.

On October 21, 9-year-old Yusuf Bell went to the store. A witness said she saw Yusuf getting into a blue car before he disappeared. His body was found on November 8 in the abandoned E. P. Johnson elementary school by a school janitor who was looking for a place to use the bathroom. Bell’s body was found clothed in the brown cut-off shorts he was last seen wearing, with a piece of masking tape stuck to them. He had been hit over the head twice and the cause of death was strangulation. Police did not immediately link his disappearance to the previous killings.

On March 4, 1980, the first female victim, 12-year-old Angel Lenair, disappeared. She left her house around 4 pm, wearing a denim outfit, and was last seen at a friend’s house watching Sanford and Son. Lenair’s body was found six days later, in a wooded vacant lot along Campbellton Road, wearing the same clothes she had left home. A pair of white panties that did not belong to Lenair was stuffed in her mouth, and her hands were bound with an electrical cord. The cause of death was strangulation.

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I won’t go on as the accounts get more and more disturbing. The FBI joined the multi-agency investigation in 1980. The investigation was closed following the conviction of Wayne Bertram Williams for two of the murders in 1982. After the trial, law enforcement linked Williams to 20 more of the 29 murders. Not all of the missing children have been found and not all the murders were attributed to Williams. Some believe he was falsely accused.  Those days, it was hard to know what to believe. Tensions were high and rising with each body found. Hundreds of residents volunteered for a community watch program at schools, playgrounds, and shopping centers. Others took up baseball bats and patrolled the streets.

Children teased each other about getting caught by “The Snatcher” as the assumption was that it was just one killer but officials at the various local, state and federal agencies working the cases couldn’t agree.

In the wake of missing children and young people again, this time in Chicago, it’s imperative that we all be careful. These are dangerous times and it really doesn’t matter where you live. Be careful out there people and keep an attentive eye on your children.

Sources:

‘It’s terrifying’: Chicago community fears 4 missing females may be linked

https://www.myajc.com/news/crime–law/why-five-atlanta-child-murder-cases-are-still-unsolved/CdHuMiEvsBelz1TZDZy5oJ/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_murders_of_1979%E2%80%9381

Body found in garage identified as missing woman Shantieya Smith

Wayne Williams And The Mystery Of The Atlanta Child Murders

Do Not Ask What, Ask Why

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We’ve known “What” since stepping foot off slave ships. We’ve known “What” since the crack of the whip. We’ve known “What” since Lynch mobs and sharecropping. We’ve known “What” since overseers, paddy rollers and colored signs. We’ve known “What” since the back of city buses and Jim Crow. We’ve known “What” since crack, ghettos and foster homes. Indeed, if there is anything black people are familiar with, it is what. The question is therefore not what, the question is why? Why the haunting images of public executions of black men? Why does the protests of Black Lives Matter mirror that of the Civil Rights Movement when we should have moved passed this? How is it that what happened 50 years ago and DIDN’T work, will somehow work today? Have we not marched? Have we not protested? Have we not already sang freedom songs and willingly gone to prison? Why are black people at the bottom of every single ethnic group and society there is? Why have we been here for nearly 400 years and have yet to produce the economic standing of nations who have been here not even half that time? The question is not what, the question is why? Why are things always so black and white? Why is it always black against white?

In the book of Exodus there is a story. This story is about the Israelites. Pharaoh said to kill off the Hebrew boys for fear that the Hebrew population would grow and that they would overrun the Egyptian population (Ex 1:9-16). More so, they will do unto the Egyptians what the Egyptians have done unto them. Fears of uprisings among African Americans can be traced back to the days of Nat Turner. To think this fear has been lost or has gone away is not to have been alive.  You see “Why?” has been around for centuries and on the tongues of every prophet. “Why?” is in the blood of every black man and woman walking this earth today. It is in every breath we take, and every move we make. “Why” is in our very DNA, our living souls breathing proof of the covenant we made so long ago. Do not tell black people that they should not be angry when our sons blood cries out to us from the ground. Instead, ask “Why?” Do not ask What, Ask Why because why is the key to everything. Why is understanding that what is happening out there is bigger than any man. “Why?” is understanding there is a reason black lives do not matter in this land. “Why” is understanding the story of Israel, the covenant they broke, and its connection to the black man and woman in America today. You see, “Why” is the key when you are the people of the book, when the police is Pharaoh, and America is Egypt.