Igor Bobic, THE HUFFINGTON POST
WASHINGTON (The Huffington Post) — Rick Perry stepped up to the lectern and paused. The former Texas governor scanned the room, a Thursday luncheon at the National Press Club, and proceeded to delve into a particularly gruesome chapter of his state’s history.
“Ninety-nine years ago — on May 15, 1916 — at a courthouse in Waco, Texas, a mentally disabled 17-year-old boy named Jesse Washington was convicted of raping and murdering the wife of his employer,” Perry said, as a pall of silence fell upon the room. “He pled guilty and was sentenced to death. But Jesse died no ordinary death. Because he was black.”
Speaking slowly but emphatically to a predominantly white audience, Perry recounted the horrific lynching outside the McLennan County Courthouse, where 15,000 people gathered to watch Washington be tortured, mutilated, castrated and burned alive. The incident, he said, was an “episode in our history that we cannot ignore. It is an episode we have an obligation to transcend.”
Perry’s speech, centered on lifting people out of poverty, took a remarkably different approach for a man known for his blunt conservatism. When he last ran for the Republican presidential nomination, in 2011, Perry bet it all on a strategy that stressed the primacy of the states over the federal government. Indeed, Perry was thecandidate for the 10th Amendment — he even wrote a book about it.
This time around, however, in the wake of racial unrest in Missouri, New York, and most recently South Carolina, Perry is seeking to bolster his appeal with black voters, whom he said on Thursday had been failed by Democratic policies.