Twenty-five years ago today, a 49-year-old Black man named James Byrd Jr. died on June 7, 1998, after he was beaten by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas. He was chained to the back of a pickup truck by his ankles and dragged for miles over an asphalt road.
All three of Byrd’s murderers, John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry, were convicted. Brewer was executed in September 2011 and King was executed in 2019. Berry is serving a life sentence.
Byrd’s death sparked hate crime legislation that allows the federal government to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.