My grandfather told me a story
of a time back in history.
He took me for a long country walk
underneath the last hanging tree.
He doesn't remember the date,
but he sees it as clear as can be;
he told me how they hung that man
from a limb of the last hanging tree.
The young man's name was Jimmy
and he wasn't much older than me.
But his life was taken by murderers
that Sunday at the last hanging tree.
They said he raped a white woman;
Jimmy swore that could never be.
But back in town, the word was spread:
"There's a meeting at the last hanging tree."
They hunted Jimmy with hungry dogs,
dragged him back on his hands and knees.
Then they tied a rope around his neck
at the base of the last hanging tree.
They hoisted Jimmy up from the ground
until his bruised, tired legs swung free.
And then they laughed as he dangled
from that branch of the last hanging tree.
I listened to my grandfather
As he retold the story to me:
"Chile, I done seen so many things,
but none like the last hanging tree.
Sometimes I still have nightmares
about how they done Jimmy Lee.
I still remember the look in his eyes
as he hung from the last hanging tree.
And if I could have one simple wish,
I'll tell you what it would be:
before I die, I'd like to cut down
what's left of the last hanging tree.
That stump is a sad reminder
and it keeps on haunting me.
But I want to forget what happened
that day at the last hanging tree.
I hate what that tree stands for;
what it means to all those who see.
And I can't leave this earth still hearing
the screams of the last hanging tree.
I don't want my great-great-grandson
to end up like we found Jimmy Lee:
dead at the end of a murderer's rope
with his blood on the last hanging tree."
So this Sunday, I'll take my grandfather
on a walk with my son and me.
together we'll tell his great-grandson
the story of the last hanging tree.
We'll talk to him about hatred,
injustice and bigotry;
then together, the three generations
will uproot the last hanging tree.
We'll do it to make peace for grandfather;
we'll do it for young Jimmy Lee.
But mostly we'll do it so no more blood
will be spilled at the last hanging tree.