State Official Fired For Using Lynching Stories To Intimidate Black People
A medical service investigator who worked with the state of Tennessee for over 40 years was fired for telling family stories about lynching to intimidate a group of African-Americans. William Sewell was accused of telling the story last summer to Shun Mullins after the African-American man had accused a local fire chief of killing his mother by refusing to perform CPR on her because she was black.
After offensively opening the meeting by asking Mullins if he had ever been to prison, he concluded it by telling “a story about a hanging, that he had been told (by family members), about the hanging of a black man. Sewell said he still had a “strap” of the black man’s skin from the 1896 lynching, which had been given to him by his grandfather. “[It was] like a trophy to him and that concerns me. It was my impression he still had it at his house,” said Mullins. “The way he enjoyed telling the story, I thought perhaps he was still using it. It threatened me.”
Nashville NAACP member Sheryl Allen and an acquaintance, Judy Mainord, were also present in the room and relayed the exact same story to officials. Allen said that Sewell “got excited telling this story.” After an investigation, the Tennessee Department of Health determined that Sewell’s question about prison and the lynching story could have been a “form of intimidation” towards Mullins.
Meanwhile, Sewell has denied any racist intent and said he is a “victim” in this case. He acknowledged telling the story and confirmed the “strap” was given to him by his grandfather, but said he no longer owns it. “If they chose to conclude that was an intimidating comment, I’m sorry,” he said. “It was a gruesome story. I got caught up in the moment trying to convince these people that I understood, and I just went too far.”
(Photo: News Channel 5)