The "Kissing Case", Monroe, North Carolina
In 1958, Robert Williams led the struggle to free two young Black
children who had been jailed for kissing a nine-year-old white girl. On
October 28, two Black children, seven-year-old James Hanover Thompson, and
nine-year-old David "Fuzzy" Simpson, were playing with some
white boys and girls. Later, when one of the girls told her mother that a
Black boy had kissed her, all hell broke loose in Monroe. The girl's
father and neighbors armed themselves with shotguns and went looking for
the boys and their parents. That evening, James Hanover and Fuzzy were
arrested on the charge of rape and a few days later a juvenile court judge
found them guilty and sentenced them to indefinite terms in reform school.
The boys, who were denied legal counsel, were told they might get out when
they were 21 years old.
Robert Williams called well-known Black civil rights lawyer Conrad
Lynn, who came down from New York to take the case. The mothers of the two
boys were not allowed to see their children for weeks. Then Joyce Egginton,
a journalist from England, got permission to visit the boys and took the
two mothers along. Egginton smuggled a camera in and took a picture of the
mothers hugging their children. After Egginton's story of the case and
photo were printed throughout Europe and Asia, an international committee
was formed in Europe to defend James Hanover and Fuzzy. There were huge
demonstrations in Paris, Rome and Vienna and in Rotterdam, the U.S.
Embassy was stoned. This was an international embarrassment for the U.S.
government. In February, officials asked the boys' mothers to sign a
waiver--an admission of guilt--with the assurance that their children
would be released. The mothers refused to sign. And then, two days later,
James Hanover and Fuzzy were released without conditions or explanation.