Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Save me, Joe Louis!"

Recalling an execution he read about in Florida, Grant Wiggins thought about the "boy" being dragged to the electric chair. The boys continually screamed, "Please, Joe Louis, help me. Please help me. Help me" (91). Louis never came, and the boy, jolted by the electric current, died. In his 1964 book Why We Can't Wait, Martin Luther King Jr. related the same story, albeit with the gas chamber instead of the electric chair:
More than twenty-five years ago, one of the southern states adopted a new method of capital punishment. Poison gas supplanted the gallows. In its earliest stages, a microphone was placed inside the sealed death chamber so that scientific observers might hear the words of the dying prisoner to judge how the human reacted in this novel situation.
The first victim was a young Negro. As the pellet dropped into the container, and the gas curled upward, through the microphone came these words: "Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis. Save me, Joe Louis..." (129)
Continuing, King states that the boy's helplessness led him to look for someone who cared and he called out to Joe Louis, "[n]ot God, not government, not charitably minded white men, but a Negro who was the world's most expert fighter, in this last extremity, was the last hope" (129). This event, however, never actually happened.

In a November 7, 2005 article entiled "Save me, Joe Louis!" for the Los Angeles Times, David Margolick talks about the true story behind this apocryphal anecdote. It turns out that story originated with an article in The Daily Worker that recorded the execution of Allen Foster, a 19 year old North Carolinian charged with the rape of a white woman in 1936.While chained to the chair in the gas chamber, wearing boxing shorts and shivering with cold, Foster did not call out, "Save me, Joe Louis!" Instead, he spoke of sparring with Louis in Birmingham, AL before Louis became famous. Margolick, in Beyond Glory: Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink, mentions that no record indicates that Louis visited Birmingham when Foster claimed that he did and that Foster's mom said her son was "half crazy."    

What does all of this say about the construct of myths and their importance? Obviously Joe Louis held a place in the African American consciousness as I've talked about before. Could that be the reason why The Daily Worker chose to have Foster call out to Louis before his execution? Why does Gaines include a form of this story in A Lesson before Dying? Is it because the community saw Louis as a hero and vicariously defeated oppression when he won? All of these are questions worth thinking about and exploring. As usual, post comments below.

Gaines, Ernest J. A Lesson before Dying. New York:Vintage Books, 1993. Print.
King Jr, Martin Luther. Why We Can't Wait. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010. Print.


  1. I would like to let all know that the size of your Penis really matters in your relationship or marriage. I got married to my wife about 1 month after we met on a photo studio, we lived happily for the first 3 months of our marriage until i and my wife started having quarrels at home because i couldn't satisfy her on bed with my little penis. Actually my penis was very small, it measured about 4.5 inch long on erection and i am 51 years old. My wife said it was forbidden by the women of this world. My wife started sleeping with other men outside. Sometimes i will return from work without finding my wife at home and whenever i call or ask her where she was, she will always snub at me and sometimes just tell me to go get a larger dick. All this continued for a long time and it hurt me so much that i was at the edge of breaking up on the marriage till when i read about a doctor called DR.Moses Buba. online. I never thought i could smile and be in a happy marriage again if not for the help of DR.Moses Buba. I got the doctors Emails:( ) on the internet and i emailed him, and he got back to me with some encouraging words, he got me some herbs cream which i use for just 8 days and i began to feel the enlargement of my penis, and without surgery. This went on for a little period of about 10 days and to my surprise my wife keeps screaming that she love my big dick now. Now my wife no longer cheat on me, and my penis is now about 10.5 inches long on erection and off course very large round. And now my wife uses breasts, hips and bums enlargement. I and my wife are very happy for the help rendered to me by DR.Moses Buba, and i want to say a big thanks to Doctor for the help. You can contact the Doctor now on his Email:( ) OR WHATSAPP +2349060529305, you can even contact me to know my result or see it with your eye on whats-app or you can call me +886981036185 or
    You can go through is website

  2. Being heart broken isn't a thing of joy you know. My wife got me divorced after she caught me cheating on her with my ex lover. Was so ashamed and felt so disappointed in myself. I couldn't bear the fact that I no longer have a life partner so I decided to try to get my wife back with everything I could possibly do but nothing worked out. Not till I was referred to Dr. John Soco who made what I thought was impossible to be possible by bringing back my wife within 24 hours after I made contact with him. I can boldly and joyfully say that my marriage is working just fine and more beautiful than before and I'm so happy to have gotten in contact with Dr. John Soco for he's really a genius, Thanks to May Ben too for connecting me to Dr. John Soco, If you have any issues regardless of how big it is, Dr. John Soco will sort it out for you. His Email address; Or call his whatsapp number on +1 706 871 4571 , for urgent response.