Wednesday, January 12, 2011

They Killed Him For His Land: The Roy Malcolm Veal Hanging Was Also Ruled A Suicide

Ex-Washington Man Found Hanging In Tree

He Had Returned To Mississippi To Fight For Family's Land

Saturday, April 24, 2004


WOODVILLE, Miss. -- Family members say a man found yesterday hanging from a tree in rural Mississippi had returned home to fight for his family's land.

The body of 55-year-old Roy Veal, originally from Washington state, was discovered in Wilkinson County, relatives said.

Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said the body was discovered about midday in a wooded area of the county near Woodville.

Authorities declined to identify the man pending notification of relatives.

But Doris Gordon, a Woodville native now living in San Francisco, said the victim was her brother, Roy Veal of Washington state. Thelma Veal, the man's mother, also confirmed the identity.

"They found my brother hanging from a tree with a hood over his head and some papers burned at his feet," Gordon said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from San Francisco. "It's awful. We don't know who did it."

Oliver James, 72, one of the men who led authorities to Veal's body, said there appeared to be a blue-flowered cover over Veal's head. James said one of the investigators said it appeared to be a pillow case. James also said Veal's truck was parked about 50 feet away.

Gordon, who said she would be returning to Woodville as soon as possible, said her brother had returned to the family home in Wilkinson County "to help with a lawsuit pending against our family."

"There are people trying to take part of our land because they apparently think there is oil on the land," she said.

Strain said the Highway Patrol's Bureau of Investigation was looking into the death.

County Coroner Travis Sharp said he had not been contacted; the Sheriff's Department declined any comment.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said agents were available if needed but at this point the investigation was being handled by local authorities.

Officials at the chancery clerk's office in Woodville said a lawsuit pending in chancery court names several members of the Thelma Veal family, including Doris Gordon and apparently Roy Veal, as defendants.

Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver Jr., said the case involved title to land in the county and damages.

Thelma Veal said the lawsuit sought portions of land owned by her late husband and his brothers.

She said her son had obtained a map of the property and was collecting documents to prove the family owned the land.

"Now they have found my son hung back there on a tree," said Thelma Veal, 79.

She said her husband owned more than 40 acres in the area southwest of Woodville and that it was being sought because it might have oil deposits.

There is oil production in that area of the state.

"My husband's daddy bought this land in 1926, and I've been here ever since I was 18," she said. "It's our land."


Death Of Seattle Man In South Ruled A Suicide
SEATTLE -- A Washington state man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi committed suicide, a coroner in that state said.

Authorities had said evidence surrounding the death of Roy Malcom Veal indicated he committed suicide, but Wilkinson County Coroner Travis Sharp would not release autopsy results or issue a formal ruling until he received reports from the state crime lab.

The Washington Department of Licensing shows a Seattle address for Veal, a native of Woodville, Miss.

Sharp said there was no evidence of drugs, alcohol or toxins in Veal's body, and the manner of death was consistent with suicide, The Natchez Democrat reported in yesterday's editions.

"I'm basing my ruling on the autopsy report along with the evidence found by Sheriff's Department and the state and federal investigators," Sharp said.

Veal's body was found April 23 hanging from a tree with a pillowcase on his head along a secluded dirt road near his mother's house in Donegal, Miss.


Mississippi Hanging Exposes Black Struggle For Land
By Minnie Bruce Pratt, Workers World, 13 May 2004

Roy Veal, a descendant of African American farmers who was fighting to hold onto his family's land, was found hanging from a tree on April 23 in Woodville, Miss.

Woodville is in Wilkinson County just south of Natchez. It was the childhood home of Jefferson Davis, president of the slave-owning Confederate states, and site of his plantation, Rosemont.

Veal's relatives are emphatic that his death was a lynching. "They hang one and scare the rest, that's the way they do it in Mississippi," family member Willie Brad ley told Brooklyn's Daily Challenge newspaper.

Veal had returned to his home from Seattle to help his family fight a land-grab attempt by whites who alleged title and timber rights to acres that had been in Veal's family for three generations, since the late 19th century.

Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesperson Warren Stain declared the death as "consistent with suicide." But there are serious and troubling contradictions to this explanation, including the fact that Veal had been hooded in a pillowcase before his death. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)


There is a long history of white vigilante violence against Black economic independence and land ownership in the region.

At the close of the Civil War, a few Union generals began to allocate the plantations of the former slave owners to freed African Americans, part of the "40 acres and a mule" land redistribution.

In Wilkinson County, Davis' 10,000-acre plantation, Rosemont, was declared a "home colony" under the protection of a Black regiment. The land was farmed cooperatively by newly freed people who set up a self- governing community there. (James Allen, "Reconstruction: The Battle for Democracy 1865-1876")

Their hard-won freedom was pushed back by an alliance of the old Southern slaveocracy and Northern capital eager to profit in the region. A horrific wave of legal and extra-legal violence against African American people attempting to exercise basic democratic and economic rights swept through the South.

This violent assault on their self-determination was accomplished through torture, sexual humiliations and mutilations of men and women—similar to the torture of Iraqi resistance fighters by U.S. soldiers holding them as prisoners, as reported by Amnesty International and news media worldwide. And these were the same kind of tortures that were used against Native American people resisting colonization of their lands. (David E. Stannard, "American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World")


The Black community in the South mounted ferocious resistance to the white ruling class's attacks on their freedom.

During a gubernatorial election in 1876, white night riders in adjoining West Feli ciana, La., raided a section of the parish where they thought African Americans "hadn't come into line as they should" and hanged their leader, Tom Rice—not before, however, he, "hearing the horses' hoofs, hid in the brake back of his house and killed Mr. West," one of the white vigilantes. ("Eyes on the Prize" documentary)

The struggle for Black people to gain and retain land ownership was central to their survival in the South. If they could not win redistribution of the land, through outright occupation or through reparations legislation such as the "40 acres" grants, then newly freed Black people had no material basis for survival and no way to stand against the seizure of their newly won rights by a resurgent slaveocracy.

All other bourgeois democratic rights—the right to vote, to testify in court, to form civil contracts such as marriage—were completely, inextricably and openly linked to this fight for economic justice.

Roy Veal, in his life and death, was part of the heroic struggle for Black independence in Wilkinson County.

Preceding him in the fight were such ancestors as noted author Richard Wright's maternal grandfather, Richard Wilson, who farmed in Woodville. Wilson escaped out of the fields of slavery to enlist in the Union Navy. He returned to the county after the war "to stand armed guard in front of ballot boxes to protect blacks who were voting." (Hazel Rowley, Richard Wright: The Life and Times)

During the civil-rights battles of the 1960s, state-sponsored white vigilantism continued in what activist Bob Moses called "symbolic acts of terror"—the attempt to intimidate the Black community through assassination of its leaders. In Wilkinson County, Lewis Allen and four other such leaders were killed in 1964.

Speaking that year, Moses said: "But while that was happening, what kept people going, and what still keeps people going, was that you were able to reach and make contact with the Negro farmers, with the people in the cities. You were able to actually grab a hold of them. There was some feeling that you had hit some rock bottom, that you had some base that you could work with and that you could build on, and as long as you had that, then maybe there was some hope for making some real changes someday." (Bob Moses, Voices of Freedom Project)


The fight to keep land in the hands of Black people in the South continues in the face of a system Moses characterized then as "the white citizens councils, the governor, the state legislature, the judiciary—one monolithic system."

In 1920 over 925,000 Black farmers controlled over 15 million acres of land. Today there are only 15,000 to 18,000 farmers, with less than a million acres.

A 2001 Associated Press study documented "a pattern in which Black Amer icans were cheated out of their land or driven from it through intimidation, violence and even murder. In some cases, government officials approved the land takings; in others, they took part in them. The earliest occurred before the Civil War; others are being litigated today. ... Today, virtually all of this property, valued at tens of millions of dollars, is owned by whites or corporations." (Dr. Raymond A.Winbush, "The Earth Moved: Land Theft and African Americans in the United States")

The taking of these lands continues with the complicity of the U.S. Depart ment of Agriculture, which denies loans to Black farmers, thus furthering the interests of corporate agribusiness. Resistance also continues, however, as shown last July 4 in the dramatic takeover of USDA offices in Tennessee by 300 Black farmers.

Speaking for Roy Veal's family, Willie Bradley says: "This is not over. We want to find out what happened, and the fight will go on to keep the family land." (Daily Challenge)

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: Subscribe Unsubscribe Support the voice of resistance


    Lynching Over Land?

    By Loretta A. Ragsdell
    May 16, 2004

    Mississippi Hanging Raises Furor

    ( - Although the Wilkinson County, Miss. sheriff has not released an official ruling in the April 23 hanging death of Roy Veal, family members are convinced his death was a lynching, tied to an ongoing legal battle over land title between the Veal family and White neighbors.

    Sheriff Reginald Jackson says his office is conducting a thorough investigation and until he receives the toxicology report, he will not be issuing an official finding. At Final Call press time, calls to the sheriff were being forwarded to a recorded message stating the incident was now an FBI investigation and further information is unavailable at this time.

    Two turkey hunters found Mr. Veal’s body around 9 a.m. The 55-year-old man was hanging from a pecan tree with a rope around his neck. A blue pillowcase covered his head. Allegedly, there were burned papers strewn beneath his feet. The tree was on a secluded stretch of a dirt road not far from his mother’s house.

    In earlier interviews, Sheriff Jackson said the autopsy report shows his death was consistent with a suicide. The sheriff conducted a crime scene investigation of his car, which was parked near the area where the body was found, and said that a lot of his personal things were recovered.

    “He had done a lot of writings,” Mr. Jackson said. “In the paperwork, it gave some consolation to us that will line up with our investigation. There has been no sign of foul play, no blunt trauma to the body, no cuts, no bruises, anything of that nature.”

    Mr. Veal, a resident of Seattle, Wash., who was staying with his mother Thelma Veal in Donegal, Miss., had only been in town three days. Originally from Wilkinson County, he came to town to present documentation he had assembled to prove the Veal family’s ownership of land believed to contain oil.

    Boyd and Marjorie Alexander of Natchez, Miss., and Kevin Krick of Baton Rouge, La., filed a lawsuit over land title against the Veals last October in the Wilkinson County Chancery Division. The dispute is over 40 acres of land southwest of Woodville.

    Veal’s grandfather and his brothers owned the 40 acres. Veal’s mother, now 79, has lived there since she was 18. According to Alvin Bailey, Veal’s cousin, several years ago, a family member sold her part of the 40 acres to a White neighbor, who has since tried to claim the entire 40 acres.

    “The White man obtained one of the shares of the family plots when another one of my cousins (now deceased) sold it to him in secrecy,” Mr. Bailey said. “Then, he started trying to take other pieces of the land,” he added.

    Mr. Jackson, a Black man, has been sheriff of the small, predominately Black town for 13 years. He says that he knows the Veal family well, and is determined to give them the utmost of respect.

    “Once I do announce my findings, they will be the first ones to know.”

    The sheriff has said he has received more than 300 calls from all over the nation concerning Mr. Veal’s death. Many of the calls have alleged lynching. However, he says he has not received a call from a local person as yet.

    “Our residents are fine because everyone trusts and knows my ability as sheriff and that I am going to diligently investigate the crime,” he maintained. “Not that they are not concerned,” he added, “but everyone knows that I am going to do my job. And, I am an African-American, so if there is a lynching, don’t you think I want to find out who did it? Because I might be next, or my family member., he maintained.”

    Willie Bradley, a Veal family member now residing in New York, also believes Veal’s death to be a lynching and the mark of the Klu Klux Klan.

    “They hang one and scare the rest, that’s the way they do it in Mississippi. I’m from there,” Mr. Bradley said. “People down there are so afraid.”

    Mr. Bradley, who brought the story to The Final Call, wants to know how officials could believe Veal’s death to be a suicide when just three days prior to finding his body, he had driven from Seattle with documents to prove his family’s claim to the land.

    “He was determined and fired up,” Mr. Bradley said. “He had no reason to be depressed. I can’t believe it was a suicide.”

    Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi State Chapter of the NAACP, said he is confident in Sheriff Jackson’s abilities to conduct a thorough investigation. Nevertheless, he is open to any information or evidence that supports any claim of lynching or foul play. “I am going to wait and see the results of the investigation before taking any position,” Mr. Johnson said.

    Reports of Mr. Veal’s mental state vary. Family members and friends say he was determined to win the lawsuit for his family, whereas the officials say the writings recovered from his car alluded to depression and suicide.

    Dr. Jewel Loretta Crawford, a family friend is convinced his death was a lynching. In fact, she called it, “A 2004 version of the 1955 Emmett Till story. They are still lynching us,” she said. “Roy was a Vietnam veteran who survived Vietnam only to come home and be lynched in Mississippi,” she added.

    During an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Veal’s sister, Doris Gordon of San Francisco, said, “It’s awful, we don’t know why they did it. There are people trying to take part of our land because they apparently think there is oil on the land.”

    Research has revealed there is an epidemic of Black land theft, According to Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, a professor of Social Justice at Fisk University. “Land taken from Black folks is nothing new. It is the greatest unpublished crime in American history,” Mr. Winbush said in a keynote speech given recently at the United African Movement weekly Harlem Forum.

    The Associated Press has documented a pattern in which Blacks were cheated out of their land or driven from it through intimidation, violence and murder. There have been cases where government officials approved and/or participated in the land takings. The earliest account of these land takings date back before the Civil War, with a significant number under current litigation. The AP documented 107 land takings in 13 southern and border states. More than 400 Black landowners lost more than 24,000 farmland acres and approximately 80 smaller timberlands.

    Today, Blacks, own approximately 1.1 million farmland acres whereas, according to the 1910 U.S. Agriculture Census, Blacks owned more than 15 million farmland acres.

    FCN is a distributor (and not a publisher) of content supplied by third parties. Original content supplied by FCN and News is Copyright 2009 FCN Publishing, Content supplied by third parties are the property of their respective owners.

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