From Will Brown To Michael Brown: The Historic Success of the American Justice System

The 13th amendment to the United State Constitution states the following:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Immediately we must note the inherent contradiction present in this historic document. It is necessary that we define a contradiction as a combination of statements or ideas that are opposed to one another. In other words, the statement of a position opposite to one already made. The 13th amendment states that slavery or involuntary servitude will not exist within the United States, however within the same statement it says, “except as punishment for a crime…” Here it is key that we understand that this means if I can prove or convict someone of a committing a crime, they can be subjected to slavery, involuntary servitude, and all consequences associated with the two.

Let’s now take ourselves to Omaha, Nebraska on September 25, 1919 when years of racial tension and terrorism by whites came to a climax. A young white woman named Agnes Loebeck claimed to have been raped. After providing the description of a tall and muscular Black man, 40-year-old Will Brown was the first and last person arrested for the crime. Loebeck lied proclaiming Brown to be her assailant and the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 was born. For those so-called Americans calling the racial activity in response to the Zimmerman and Darren Wilson verdicts “riots,” they need to study their history. Brown was taken to the Douglass County Courthouse while an all-white mob gathered to hunt down and kill him. The mayor, a white man himself, when demanded by the mob to reveal Brown’s location, refused and was lynched as a result. As later demonstrated in the murders of Viola Liuzzo in Lowndes County, Alabama and Jean Seberg in Paris, France, politics in America have always been “with us or against us.”

SEE ALSO: Colorblind Racism and the Murders of Viola Liuzzo and Jean Seberg


The mob soon located Brown and gathered at the Courthouse where free alcohol was distributed to fuel the tensions. The mob began to scale the building, setting it on fire, until the Judge and court staff surrendered by passing down a note revealing Brown’s exact location. He was handed over, knocked unconscious on the way downstairs, shot over a hundred times, mutilated, dragged through the town, and finally burned while surrounded by a proud American mob, posing for the local news cameras. Though 100 mob members were arrested, none would be charged and all were released within 24 hours without trial or ever seeing a judge.

Let’s now skip 95 years later and enter Ferguson, Missouri where 17-year-old Michael Brown is murdered at the hands of a police officer claiming self-defense. Post-mortem, Brown becomes the subject of his own criminal investigation while his family fights to get his assailant, Darren Wilson, put on trial. Immediately questions of whether Brown has stolen a pack of smokes arise and a criminal profile is circulated throughout the media. With every new “discovery” it seems as though the attention is not so much on whether the officer used excessive force but on whether young Michael Brown “deserved” it. This was the same strategy applied during the length of the trial against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. This was the process of applying the Constitution and the 13th Amendment as they were intended during the time of their creation in 1787 and 1865 respectively. Darren Wilson was found not guilty and not indicted because the media and court system were able to portray Brown as more-than-likey guilty of a crime, therefore in need of correction and legally able to be treated as a slave.


This is where we go deeper into American history to 1669 in Virginia where the Casual Killing Act is the law of the land. This is a law stating “if any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death not be accompted felony.” We have to understand the importance of language and take note of the use of “correction.” The prison systems of the nation are collectively called the Department of Corrections (DOC). A person becomes subject to the jurisdiction of the DOC through the court systems and their conviction. A person becomes subject to the jurisdiction of the courts through the various “law enforcement” agencies such as local police departments and their arrests. Therefore, the police are the gatekeepers to the courts and by association, the system of corrections, which is highly profitable and depends on constant influx and maintenance of prison population. When we understand this relationship, we also understand that you never bite the hand that feeds you; therefore it is politically naïve for us to believe that the system would indict the hand that feeds them and the private prison companies that lend financial support to political campaigns and the like.

SEE ALSO: On Black Political Naivete, Optimism, and Why We Can’t Afford Another Civil Rights Movement

Dred Scott (circa 1853)

In providing justifiable crimes, made believable heavily based on their Blackness and the portrayal of Blacks in mainstream American society, Will Brown and Michael Brown were found to be in-need of “correction” as punishment for those crimes. Due to the extremity of the correction by the white mob in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919 and Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the Browns died. In both situations, 95 years apart, the responsible parties were not convicted of a felony or any charge for that matter. Just today, the grand jury in the case of the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death again sent down no indictment and it all fits within the same historic context. These instances, whether we like to accept it or not, are actually successes of the American Justice and Legal Systems as they were intended under the US Constitution written in 1787 and amended in 1865. The issue with our understanding is that we’ve been believing these laws, and the US constitution as a whole, to be applying to and protecting us and our rights. However, it is as Kwame Ture stated in his speech at UC Berkeley on October 29, 1966, “I maintain that every Civil Rights Bill in this country was passed for white people, not for Black people.” He explains later in a speech at Morgan State University that the US constitution is based on property rights. Being that we were considered slaves and slaves were considered property when it was written, this document couldn’t have been meant for us because property can’t own property. This is further supported by the US Supreme Court following the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1853 in which the court ruled that, “Persons of African descent cannot be, nor were ever intended to be, citizens under the U.S. Constitution.” Therefore, the 13th amendment didn’t free us Black people from being slaves as we’ve been so accustomed to believing; in practice, it gave conditions to our enslavement and dictated to whites when slavery was ok and how to employ it (i.e. “as punishment for a crime…”).

This is where we see the shift of American industry go from dependent on agriculture and direct slave labor to mass production and indirect slave labor through the nation’s prisons. This now supports the rise of domestic and international law enforcement by the nation as war materials enter great demand with the two World Wars, Vietnam, Iraq, and all those frivolous wars fought by this nation. Domestic law enforcement industry rises because now that those slaves are “free,” a system was needed to keep them in check. This isn’t mere speculation either. Check out the documentary on the first major US prison, Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Today the private prison industry is booming and corporations such as the GEO Group, the nation’s largest private corrections, detention, and mental health company, depend on the law enforcement and court systems to keep them  full of prisoners because more inmates equals more money.

So now, with this close examination of the nation’s governing documents and its historical application of the law within them, we should now be able to see that the system is NOT broken but in fact working better than the Framers could have expected. Darren Wilson’s lack of indictment for the use of excessive force in the murder (or correction) of Michael Brown is indicative of the success and longevity of traditional American law and order. If we are unhappy with this fact, our solution is not to go to a different face of the same system in hopes that they will punish the very system that feeds them and gives them power. The solution, we believe, is the gradual and time consuming process of developing a new system that will plant the seed for a new nation, because this one has shown us enough throughout history that it has no intention of changing. It is time for us to show some political maturity and abandon that naivety once and for all. It’s time to build…

Peace, Love, and Wisdom

-Be Wise
Member, Wisdom From The Field (WFTF)






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About Be Wise

Member of Wisdom From The Field, wearer of the Afro, descendant of the Garveyite blood-line, all around cool cat.

2 Responses to “From Will Brown To Michael Brown: The Historic Success of the American Justice System”

  1. will June 7, 2015 at 6:21 AM # Reply

    You can’t actually believe any of what you’ve written here. Your very demenor is so outlandishly racist it’s rediculous. Most of these men were criminals, discovery as you call it be damned. Some were actually recorded committing their crimes…but I suppose “the white man” just made that up too. Do you even know the statistics of blacks killing whites each year..?…blacks killing blacks…..?…. their astronomical when compared to whites killing blacks. Al Sharpton for got to tell you that one didn’t he. Wow, I can’t imagine why no one takes any of this seriously anymore. It pathetic, and a lame attempt at race baiting in order to blame one groups continual problems on another. It’s sick how African Americans pass this “generational hate” down to their kids . It’s odd how the Chinese, irish, italians, jewd, arabs, hispanics, etc., don’t seem to be stuck in the 1800’s like African americans. Most of their ancestors were slaves, indentured servants or worse, so get over it. You, your parents, grandparwnts, not even your great grandparents were slaves. You have never been oppressed or denied opportunity, or your parents, you have simply convinced yourself of that because it’s eaiser than saying “I should have tried harder, or better luck next time”, not “it’s because their racist”. Grow up, and get your head out of your ass, people like you are the problem, you spread fear and racism from a lack of eduation and a one sided point of view. African Americans are the most racist demographic in america, and that’s a fact that’s on the books. Have a great day.

    P.S. Also, and for God’s sake, stop referencing greater men who have done good works for the black community in peaceful progressive ways. Your dirty their names and their accompliments with your uneducated and un objective comments.

    • Be Wise June 7, 2015 at 7:00 PM # Reply

      Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
      Haters Gonna Hate

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