Philadelphia-born trumpeter Lee Morgan was onstage at a New York club called Slug’s in February of 1972 when he was fatally shot by a longtime paramour named Helen Moore, apparently after telling the woman he was leaving her.
Morgan, a black man, was 33 years old.
Lee Morgan died seven years after the passing of the Voting Rights Act, a measure that called for a more stringent application of the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote anyone regardless of race or color. Earlier in 1965, several hundred people who wanted a say in their future – a voice to which they were legally entitled – marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge en route from Selma, Ala., to the state capitol in Montgomery and were met by police determined to stop them.
A clash ensued, and 17 people were hospitalized.
Dr. Martin Luther King filed legal papers asserting the right to march, and the group eventually made it to Montgomery. There, a 39-year-old white woman from Detroit named Viola Liuzzo was fatally shot by the Ku Klux Klan. She had gone to Montgomery to support the marchers.
Said then-President Lyndon Johnson: “Mrs. Liuzzo went to Alabama to serve the struggle for justice. She was murdered by the enemies of justice who for decades have used the rope and the gun and the tar and the feather to terrorize their neighbors.”
The enemies of justice.
Without context, it’s such an interesting phrase. The enemies of justice. Without aid of a dictionary, I take them to mean, Those opposed to what is right and fair. Maybe that’s not quite right.
How fucking arbitrary it seems.
Did Lee Morgan, a black man all of his life but barely regarded as a human in his country of birth, know justice? Or what about Helen Moore, the woman who shot him? Did she experience justice?
A fatal shooting in a place called Slug’s. Is that justice, or just irony?