Robert Charles Essay, Research Paper
A Black Sufferer Who Died for His Pride
Robert Charles, AKA Curtis Robertson of Copiah County, Mississippi was denied his rights as a human being and thus openede fire on a group of white supremacists in New Orleans, Louisiana in the year 1900, bringing about a racial riot that outraged thousands. Society in this time period was on the threshold of a segregatio n war, and Robert’s actions on the 27th of July, represented his attempt to achieve dignity and self-respect, as well as equal rights on behalf of all blacks throughout the nation. It was believed that “Robert Charles was the boldest, most desperate and dangerous Negro ever known in Louisiana.” (Hair 1979:179)
Robert Charles was killed because he stood up for what he believed in. In the years of which he lived, the blacks had absolutely no societal, economic, or political power, and were labeled as ‘dirty, worthless Niggers’ by the whites. Creoles, Mulattos, and others, who had racially mixed backgrounds, all known as ‘Darkies,’ were commonly rejected by the white-dominated society, and grew accustomed to being treated as if their existence in the world was insignificant and of quite a lower status. Blacks were constantly being falsely accused of crimes, which resulted with sever beatings, jail time, or even lynching. The probablility of a black person being proven guilty for even the most harmless crime was highly likely. Whites who supported blacks in their eagerness for equality were thought to be just as bad as a Blackman himself and therefore, would be condemned by their own race.
The stand that Robert Charles took by trying to fight the ways of society “in a time when people of his race could not exhibit such characteristics without fear of reprisal,” (Hair 1979: back cover) proves that not only was he brave and courageous, but also an honorable martyr. The wrongs inflicted upon the black race in America, concerning mostly the unjust treatment of colored persons was something that had to be put to an end, Charles decided, and he surrendered his life for the entire black population. He gave up his freedom so that his people could have theirs.
It all began on the evening of July 23rd, 1900, when Charles and his roommate Lenard Pierce were out-and-about, walking the streets, awaiting some lady friends, who were to join them for the evening. The girls never showed up, but 3 white patrolmen did instead, after receiving a call about 2 suspicious-looking Negroes hanging around the front steps of a white occupancy. The police demanded an explanation fromt the black men, but Robert began to stand up as he spoke, which gave the officials the wrong idea. One of them pulled a gun on Charles, who in self-defense, pulled out his own gun as well. They shot a couple bullets in each other’s directions, and Charles ran off after they had each sank a bullet into one of each other’s legs. Robert Charles was pretty much as good as dead at this point, for he had injured a white official of the law. But life wasn’t the kind of thing that a man such as Charles would give up without a fight.
Robert Charles managed to hide out for a few days, before the cops finally learned of his whereabouts. During the period he spent in hiding, Charles had the chance to watch his life flash before his own eyes. It couldn’t end just like that, he wasn’t going to let the whites get the satisfaction that they craved and always received. Charles had never expressed open hatred towards white people and had never wronged them. He had just pulled out that gun in self-defense. The cops knew this as well as he. The story would not be told in his favor though, and he was to be fatally punished for his crime.
In concealment, Charles thought back to how one black man a few months prior, had been suspected of rape and murder, and was brutally beaten, then burned until his body was nothing more than a mutilated mess. His body parts were then bought by whites to keep as souvenirs in glorification of his death. Charles could not stand the sickness of the world any longer. He felt the whites had to learn a lesson, and the way he would go about teaching them would be seeking revenge.
Robert Charles got his revenge. He put up a hard, long fight against thousands of whites. 7 dead and 27 wounded altogether by the hands of Robert Charles, he brought about one of the biggest uprisings in quite some time, and was successful in attaining just what he needed to leave the world peacefully. “Charles’ primary conviction was that his own life should continue as long as possible, consistent with dignity,” (Hair 1976:2) and once his pride was forcibly taken away from him by the whites, he had to let them understand that the injustice of the world would not persist forever.