James Byrd Jr. Saga Continues


Drs. Cassy Burleson and Mia Moody-Ramirez are excited about the publication of their article on James Byrd Jr. murder in the Nov. 2014 Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas.

This 16-year study uses Critical Race Theory to examine how people connected to Jasper, Texas, view the long-lasting effects of the 1998 murder of James Byrd, Jr., and recent events there that include turmoil related to the suspicious death of a young Black family man.

“This study places Jasper residents at the core and examines the subject within the nexus of race, population, politics, and economics,” Burleson said. “Our ultimate goal is to write a book on the topic.”

Study findings indicate Jasper residents reached “interest convergence” four times: immediately following the Byrd murder in 1998 and during the three subsequent trials in 1999, after the Columbia space shuttle exploded over Jasper in 2003, and during Hurricane Rita’s aftermath in 2005. However, one murderer’s execution and three racially charged crises from 2011 on, coupled with the absence of a strong leadership team to inspire community cohesiveness, have reopened wounds and resulted in a more pronounced racial divide 16 years later than existed prior to the Byrd murder in 1998.

Burleson and Moody-Ramirez presented an earlier draft of the paper at the 2014 American Studies Association of Texas conference, held at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

The two were assisted in their research by Danielle Kilgo and Tonya Lewis. Kilgo is a student at the University of Texas. Lewis is a graduate student in the MA program at Baylor.



The founder of Critical Studies Blog, Mia Moody-Ramirez, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media at Baylor University. She specializes in new media portrayals of women and people of color. Her recent papers focus on the effects of the James Byrd Jr. dragging death on Jasper, Facebook hate groups, stereotypes of President Barack and Michelle Obama, male and female rappers’ differing views on the “independent woman,” and coverage of missing women.

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