Could you imagine seeing a cross burning in your front yard? If you said no, that is exactly how my mother’s brother, Craig Allen felt, until it happened to him. This is the story that he remembers as it happened one night in a neighborhood in Buckstown, Jefferson County Parish, Louisiana.
Craig’s story begins like this in his own words:
In the early 90s, I was offered to live in a house by a gentleman named Sealey. This man wanted me to rehab the interior and exterior of his property. Upon arriving at the house the grass on the property was three to four feet high and the homes surrounding the property were very well kept. When I entered the home I could see that it had been used as a party house. Furniture was turned over and broken, kitchen appliances were dirty, leftover food was in the refrigerator, piles of clothes were thrown everywhere in both bedrooms, and the bathrooms were horrible. It needed a full restoration. After analyzing the situation, I started on the inside since I was going to be living there. After three days of going back and forth and cleaning, I was able to stay there to finish the restoration. Once the inside was livable, I began working on the outside. This included mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and cutting bushes. While doing this exterior work, I met some of the neighbors. I received great reviews from them, saying they were so glad that something was being done.
Buckstown, LA is a shrimping community consisting of 95% white population and the headquarters of the Grand Marshall of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. I was unaware of this fact at the time, not really being aware that I saw no faces that looked like mine in the community. The people were very friendly though. After a month of living there, one evening, I got a knock at the door. As I opened the door, entering without invitation, were six men in wet slicker suits, the attire worn by shrimpers, which led me to believe that they were coming straight off the water from their boats. With some apprehension I offered them a beer. A couple of the men took me up on it, but the others declined because they were more interested in where the owner of the house was. I explained to them that I was there to rehab the house with a rent to own option per a verbal agreement with the owner. I told them Sealey was in the city and he was paying me for the work that I was doing. He was getting the paperwork together for a rent to own option. The intruders explained to me that the Sealey family was one of the oldest families in the area. The men showed me a picture of the house before any other houses were built around it. Sealey’s family was one of the founding families of Buckstown. Sure enough there was a picture that I had removed from the wall to paint, that showed that it was, in fact, the original house. Now there are houses all around. After telling me the story, the intruders finally left with a message for me to tell Sealey to contact a man named Bobby Jo. I didn’t question the request, not really realizing the gravity of the situation I was in. I thought nothing of it because everyone was so nice and this was some prime real estate. Two weeks later, Sealey came by to see what had been done and paid me the last installment for the work. He had not yet gotten the paperwork together, but had no problem with me staying there until the paperwork was finalized the next week. Two days later I got up to go to the store to get some more groceries. I left out from the back door of the house. Upon returning to the house, I could see the front lawn and to my amazement there was a ten foot wooden cross that was smoldering in smoke. I stopped, looked around and saw that the lawn had been trampled on by many people. How could this have happened? I hadn’t heard or seen or heard anything. No wailing of fire sirens, no blaring police lights, and no concerned neighbor knocking at the door warning me of a racial ritual being played out on the front lawn of the house I was sound asleep in. The legend was true, the Klan comes as ghost in the night. I had been visited by a live not dead an apportion. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I thought of what might have happened if I had ran out of the house or had been pulled out of the house by these terrorists. Flashes of my forefathers being burned, lynched, disfigured and torn away from their families in the black of night brightened the corners of my mind. I immediately ran in the house and called the police because I could not believe that crosses were still being burned and used to intimidate and instill fear upon innocent black people in the 90s!! The police and news stations came. I was told that this was the Grand Duke’s territory. I asked what my legal rights were against this crime, but I was told that I was not welcomed even with legal documentation. I immediately packed and vacated the premises. I was angry and confused!!! HOW COULD SOMETHING LIKE THIS STILL BE HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA??
This was yet another experience I had with racism and prejudice in the United States in the 1990s. AND THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES.
Footnote: In doing research for my uncle’s story I could not find any record or evidence of this story even though my uncle’s interview was broadcast on several local television stations. COVER UP??? EVIDENCE DESTROYED???? Who knows, it has happen before.