The museum, at the heart of downtown Memphis, recounts a determined and hopeful history: two painful steps forward and one bloody step back, from the days when an able-bodied African man could be purchased for one hundred and thirty gallons of rum to the election of the USA’s first black president.
NASA should have sent up a poet or an artist, he reckons, to describe the view for all mankind. Because the question is always the same: “What did it feel like on the moon?” He doesn’t have an answer. “Magnificent desolation,” he called it, while he was there.
Some think the riots damaged the community. Others call it an uprising. “There’s power in non-violent protest,” said Shorty, “but you need to show that you’re capable of violence as well.”
“It is a place where you can be anything. It’s a place where you can say anything, write anything, paint anything.” But not for long.
A few days after the execution date was confirmed, I received a message: Swearingen wanted me to watch him die.
“The idea is immortal, it is without class and it doesn’t care anything about wealth,” he says. ” I could get my horn and play for you, and believe me, I would play something.”