Now Cooper’s later call to the police, released Wednesday during a virtual hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, echoes the pattern of lies white women have told about black men since the Jim Crow era. And the consequences were often fatal or led to false beliefs.
“We will hold people accountable for making false and racist emergency calls,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. on Wednesday. “Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the police reaction to Ms. Cooper’s joke.”
False reporting to 911 is a crime in New York and also violates the state’s civil rights law. Cooper did not file a plea and her case was adjourned until November 1
Here’s a look at some previous cases of white women making false allegations against black men and boys.
Emmett Till was accused of assaulting a woman
Emmett had traveled there from Chicago to visit his great-uncle who lived in the area.
The woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, JW Milam, tore Emmett out of bed in the middle of the night on August 28, 1955. They ordered him to get into the bed of a pickup truck and eventually viciously beat him before they shot him in the head.
The men strapped a 75-pound cotton gin fan to their necks with barbed wire so that he could complain if they tossed it into the Tallahatchie River.
Emmett’s murder rocked the nation as pictures of his disfigured face were released and crowds attended his funeral in Chicago, where his coffin was publicly available. His death helped fuel the burgeoning civil rights movement.
The woman, Carolyn Bryant, later testified on the defense and gave fire testimonies accusing Emmett of grabbing her and verbally threatening her.
“I think everyone has known that since 1955. Nobody thought she was telling the truth from the start, and they didn’t choose then to prosecute her,” Tyson told reporters in 2018.
The Scottsboro Boys have been charged with rape
In 1931, nine black boys, ages 12-19, were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train near Scottsboro, Alabama.
They faced a number of lawsuits, and each of the nine spent at least six years in prison.
The trials resulted in two landmark decisions by the US Supreme Court – one requiring defendants to be tried by their fellow jurors, which means blacks in their cases; the other demands that defendants in need receive competent advice.
Alabama dropped rape allegations against five of the defendants, and the sixth, Clarence Norris, received a pardon from Governor George Wallace in 1976.
Groveland Four were charged with rape
In 1949, four black men were accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old white girl in Groveland, Florida, about 30 miles west of Orlando. The group was named “Groveland Four”.
The girl, Norma Padgett, claimed her car broke down and the four men stopped and raped her.
The men – Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas – were arrested and three of them tortured until police extracted two of them to confess.
Thomas, who managed to escape custody, was killed after a manhunt.
Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison. Shepherd and Irvin received the death penalty. When the sheriff was taken out of the county jail for a retrial, he shot them both and demanded self-defense.
Shepherd died on the scene and Irvin survived by pretending to be dead. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
She said a 9-year-old fondled her before apologizing
Black men and boys have not stopped being falsely accused. While they have not been subjected to lynching as they were in the 20th century, many years have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
Younger children were also wrongly accused.
Ms. Teresa Klein was widely criticized on social media after a video was posted on Facebook in October 2018 in which she was referred to as “Cornerstore Caroline”.
“I was just sexually assaulted by a child,” said Klein in the video and appeared to be on the phone with a 911 driver.
The boy who was wearing an oversized blue backpack and a girl who looks younger than the boy both burst into tears.
Days after the incident, Klein returned to the deli and watched surveillance videos showing the child’s backpack brushing against her bum – his hands in sight – as she leaned over a deli counter in Brooklyn.
“Young man, I don’t know your name, but I’m sorry,” the woman told reporters after viewing the material.
New York police at the time told CNN that the department had received no 911 calls or complaints about the incident from the deli or a woman.