William Sewell was raised to be a racist by his grandfather who gifted him with a swatch of a murdered black man's skin. He used that grizzly souvenir to threaten Shun Mullins when he complained that first responders had refused to resuscitate his black mother with "mouth to mouth" who eventually died as a result. Sewell made the mistake of repeating the story of his black skin strap to an investigative committee, including Nashville NAACP member Sheryl Allen .
According to Allen, Sewell said that a black man had been lynched in Baxter, Mullins’ hometown.
They hung him, and they started carving his skin out of his back, Allen said. It was like he got excited telling this story.
Sewell said that he still owned that “strap” of the black man’s skin that his grandfather had given him. Allen recounted that he said, “They used that strap as a knife sharpener.”
WTFV, channel 5, confirmed that a black man’s body was mutilated during a lynching in Baxter in 1896 just as Sewell's grandfather had said.
Even after the death of Mullins’ mother and the intimidation that Mullin suffered, Sewell argued that he was the true victim:
I am the victim because I made a mistake, Sewell said during the interview.
However, Sewell's days of being victimized by reactions to his racism are over. And now the department of Health can get on to investigating Mullin's original claim that his mother didn't receive proper care by the responding first aid workers.
Stephen Hawking once said, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” Racism is one result from this illusion. The firing of long-term racist, William Sewell, is one small step toward the dispelling of that illusion, but it's an important one, especially for the residents of Tennessee.