A few years ago a chain email was spread explaining the origins of the word picnic.

The email stated the word picnic was derived from the phrase “pick-anigger.” Remembering that email, I decided to investigate the origins of the word picnic, to verify whether the email was correct. My research has concluded that the word picnic was not derived from “pick-a-nigger,” but has its origin from the French word piquenique – meaning “to pick or peck.” While researching the origins of the word picnic, I became aware of why the person who started the chain email believed the word came from “pick-a-nigger.” From the late 1800s to the present, many people of African descent have been lynched in this country during picnic type events. As a matter of fact, lynchings were the events that were the cause for celebrations and family gatherings. Policeman, pastors, teachers and people from all levels of society would gather together to participate in the lynching of a person of African descent. Parents would bring their children to the lynching as a form of entertainment. In the 1890s, Brother Henry Smith, a 17-year old man, was made to sit on a parade-style float that was drawn by horses and paraded around a cheering crowd. After the float was stopped, Brother Henry Smith was tortured and then burned alive. The death of Brother Henry Smith was not the end of the celebration. Brother Henry Smith’s body was cut in pieces and the pieces were given to the crowd as souvenirs. The most prized piece of flesh was his penis, which was given to a raffle winner. Brother Henry Smith was lynched because he was falsely accused of killing a white girl. It must be stressed that lynchings were all day events. The victim was tortured throughout the day before being killed. Eating, dancing, ball games, and speeches all took place while the victim was being tortured. Some methods of torture included the victim being burned with torches, stabbed with knives, having fingers and toes cut-off, being beaten with bats and the most common form of torture for males was being castrated. After the torture the victim was usually burned alive. Throughout the United States these events became known as “Negro barbecues.” Children were usually encouraged to participate in these events.

This article is dedicated to all the countless number of brothers and sisters that have been lynched in this country. We have not forgotten you and will never forget you.

The struggle continues . . . Granderson Glenn II PEACE

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