Monday, January 12, 2009

Now Is the Time for Your Tears

In a few days a man with African American roots will become the next president of the United States….a very historic event.

However, a few short (at least to me) forty-six years ago the life of a black woman in Charles County, Maryland was worth a fine of $500 and six months in jail.

That's it.

The woman was Hattie Carroll and her fate was sealed the night of February 9, 1963, when she reported for work at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland.

During her work shift a young white tobacco farmer was attending the white-tie Spinsters’ Ball at the hotel. Apparently Ms. Carroll didn’t deliver Mr. Zantzinger’s drink fast enough , and he ended up hitting her with his cane. The cane ended up being nothing but a 25-cent wooden toy, but others who were hit with the cane that evening testified the blows were severe. Ms. Carroll was hit on the head and shoulders as Mr. Zantzinger hurled racial epithets I won’t repeat here.

From a Time magazine article:

“I’d been smacking- tapping- waitresses on the tail, and they didn’t say anything. I was just playing,” Zantzinger told the jury in Hagerstown, where the case was tried.

“I had no other purpose than to have a good time,” Zantzinger testified. “The last thing I intended was to harm or injure anyone. I never even thought about it.”

An article in the same Time magazine from February 22, 1963 states that not long after Ms. Carroll was hit she told co-workers, “I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so.” She collapsed and was hospitalized. Eight hours after the assault the mother of eleven was dead. Though the autopsy did indicate she had hardened arteries, an enlarged heart, and high blood pressure, the report gave brain hemorrhage as the cause of death.

Mr. Zantzinger testified he remembered nothing, but admitted he had been extremely drunk. Initially he was charged with murder, but the charges were reduced to manslaughter and assault. The Time article goes on to state that the reason for the reduction in the charges were based on the idea that it was Ms. Carroll’s stress reaction to Mr. Zantzinger’s verbal and physical abuse that led to the intracranial bleeding, rather than the blunt-force trauma from the blow ….a blow that did not leave a mark.

In a second Time magazine article, titled Deferred Sentence, it was reported Mr. Zantzinger received a sentence of six months, a fine of $125 for the assault on the other hotel employees and and a $500 fine for the death of Ms. Carroll. The article goes on to state that the start of Mr. Zantzinger’s prison sentence was deferred giving him time to harvest his tobacco crop.

During the 1960s it was articles like the Time articles I’ve referred to here as well as the film clips shown on the nightly news that got the word out regarding the continued inequality that existed in the South.

Popular music also had bearing on getting the word out.

A young 20-something Bob Dylan was greatly moved by the death of Hattie Carroll. So much so that sitting in a New York City coffee shop he penned the following words:

William Zantzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath'rin'.
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,T
ake the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland,
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling,
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen.
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn't even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level,
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room,
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle.
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin' that way without warnin'.
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears.

Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music

The song was released on Dylan’s These Times They Are A-Changin’, and soon after he wrote the song he sang it live on the Steve Allen Show. Here is a clip of the Steve Allen appearance:

I became aware of this story from the era of Civil Rights due to this article I caught over the weekend.

Seems Mr. Zantzinger passed away on January 3rd.

I think it would interesting to provide the lyrics for students and allow them to go on their own fact-finding mission regarding unraveling the story Bob Dylan presents and then arguing the merits of Mr. Zantzinger’s case.


Teacher Mom said...

What a great idea! I also saw the article about Zantzinger, but I had not contemplated how to use it in the classroom. You really hit the mark with your lesson idea! Thanks for your post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I just posted something about the difference between blacks' roles in a past inaugural and the coming inaugural. Your post, however, is so much richer.

Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

You provide such a great public service in crafting this post. It is a jewel.

If you get time, visit my site to read my post of the day, A man without borders. I decided to write my MLK post on Dr. King's actual birthday (January 15). It would be great to hear from teachers on this.

I can tell you spent a lot of time on your post. Thanks again!

EHT said...

Thanks for your comments. You know me....I see a name in the news and off I go to check things out. Next thing I know I have a post to publish. :)

Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

EHT: I think you and I are a lot alike in the way we come up with blogging ideas. :-)

I hope you're feeling much better now. Have a great weekend.