BBC Chronicles of Black Teen Who Saved White Supremacist From Mob

We often celebrate acts of kindness between strangers, but here’s one that’s getting a lot of interest due to who the two strangers were: a black teenager and a suspected white supremacist.

It was 1996 and a Ku Klux Klan rally was being held in Ann Arbor, MI. Only about 17 “klansmen” showed up to be met by hundreds of counter-protesters. Keshia Thomas, then 18 at the time, was among the counter-protestors and found herself saving a man with an “SS” Nazi tattoos wearing a Confederate flag shirt from the imminent beat down he was facing. During the counter rally, the crowd turned on him and chased after him. Thomas put herself between the man and the protestors, an act that if reversed probably wouldn’t have gone the same way. Yet, Thomas chose to intervene.

The BBC, recounting the event, republished the dramatic photos from that day.

From the BBC:

There were shouts of “Kill the Nazi” and the man began to run – but he was knocked to the ground. A group surrounded him, kicking him and hitting him with the wooden sticks of their placards.

Mob mentality had taken over. “It became barbaric,” says Thomas.

“When people are in a crowd they are more likely to do things they would never do as an individual. Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘This isn’t right.’”

So the teenager, then still at high school, threw herself on top of a man she did not know and shielded him from the blows.

“When they dropped him to the ground, it felt like two angels had lifted my body up and laid me down.”

For Mark Brunner, a student photographer who witnessed the episode, it was who she saved that made Thomas’ actions so remarkable.

“She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her,” he says. “Who does that in this world?”

This act of selflessness is all the more remarkable considering it’s likely this man came to protest her very right to existing and living freely, leaving open the question: if left with the same choice would we have done the same? Thomas said after the incident a man approached her to thank her at a coffee shop and the man was the son of the man she protected that day.

From BBC:

For Thomas, the fact that the man had a son gave her actions even greater significance – she had potentially prevented further violence.

“For the most part, people who hurt… they come from hurt. It is a cycle. Let’s say they had killed him or hurt him really bad. How does the son feel? Does he carry on the violence?”

  • Anthony

    White folks, liberal and conservative, love stories of Christlike, forgiving and selfless blacks. The fact that this person is a large, dark skinned woman is even better since it fits the Mammy stereotype. It is a rare white person who can deal with blacks who are willing to stick it to bigots.

    As far as I am concerned, the only good thing this sister did was keep decent people from possibly facing prosecution for beating that scumbag.

  • geenababe

    I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot would someone had to saved a black person…I doubt it. This video can apply to many things in life when it comes to black willing to go the extra mile for other who wouldn’t go a foot.

  • Apple

    I would left his ass down there because if they were beating me he may have even joined in.

  • Marisa

    I doubt that racist would have done the same for her and also he and the rest of his ilk came with bad intentions anyway. How many “rallies” have they been to how many times have they acted out for their cause at the sake of blacks, you know those folks got to earn their stripes some kind of way. All I can say is that lady is a better person than me, and I saw all the AHH that’s amazing comments from white posters, now they can feel good about themselves. That once again no matter what hideous acts committed by whites there will be somebody black to come and absolve them, thereby never having to really suffer any actual consequences for their actions. Same movie plot just different actors playing the same freakin role nothing to see here folks. I’m sure there are plenty expecting blacks to be moved by this, you know like let them forget about Trayvon Martin case, and BS thrown at President and First Lady Obama and their children.

  • Ms. Vee

    Gee I wonder…would this mammyesque woman have risked her physical well being to help an innocent black man in the process of getting his ass beat by a group of bigots? The picture should’ve had the caption “I’ll save you massa!!”. This freakin irritates me. Why in the hell are we selfless for others, that clearly hate us, when no one else bats an eye at our demise? Pathetic and I could care less who disagrees.

  • SayWhat

    I am finding it very hard to feel ‘moved’ by this picture.

  • Afro Scented

    Mammy Ruckus…

  • joe

    We are the most forgiving people on the planet. Thomas Jefferson warned that if slavery was abolished, every black person in America would have to be sent back to Africa. He believed that we would be thirsty for revenge and that a race war would be inevitable. He had no idea of the psychological damage that slavery inflicted upon us. He didn’t understand that we loved our “masters” more than we loved ourselves.

  • Annoyed

    I refuse to stoop to the level of the gutter. It seems some of us have been taught well by bigots.

  • simplyme

    Maybe I’m in the minority… but she absultely did the right thing. For one she just saved those guys from a murder charge during a moment of stupidity and crowd rage.

    Once you realize that her actions were not about the coward on the floor at all I think you’d agree. I also believe that there is absolutely nothing in this world than can be solved with violence. Violence is one of those things that just tends to just propagate itself. If he was killed, a week later there’d be some retaliation event.

    And people keep alluding to “white people” and what the would think and what they would do and have done in that situation… Why should the people who we know are wrong be the barometer for our own actions? Why should she care what he would have done if the situation was flipped? When you are ok with seeing another human being attacked like an animal, how can you say you are any better than that man or the people that think like him?

  • Yes, I’m That Leah

    I’m not putting myself in harms way to protect some thug.

  • Marisa

    Here is the thing this dude came with 16 other people and notice not one of them was down to save his ass that much , KKK types have been nothing but true cowards they truly aint about this life lol.

  • Tsaun

    If only many white people took that approach for African Americans during the brutal 400 years of slavery which followed Jim Crow, discrimination and to date different forms of oppression towards the black race. Some of us black folks can be to damn kind, especially to ones who don’t reciprocate that same kindness.

  • Annoyed

    Beautifully put. Also, every time this thug thinks about this incident he has to remember who saved him. I love it. A twisted kind of punishmnt for him.

  • DEE

    I think what she did was amazing, true selflessness.

    If it was me I can’t say I would do the same. To know this person hated me with every fiber of their being for simply being born black, idk.

    I do wonder if this man ever changed his mind seeing that the son is the one who thanked her.

  • Mari

    I actually laughed aloud. Mammy to the rescue for massa. Black people ain’t ever gon’ learn lol.

  • paintgurl40

    i’m so sick of black folks constantly teaching and saving white people and they’ll turn right around and shit on us over and over.

  • ScriptTease

    Y’all stop coming down on this woman. Protesting is one thing, but murder is another. I agree, she would have received the opposite from this pecker-wood, but for y’all to come down on her like that. Why was she even there in the first place if you’re going to call her a mammy. Why not just stay home all together? I just cannot get with this. Violence might have been the key back during the civil rights movement, but not this day in age.

  • vintage3000

    Go ‘head captain save a cracka, and she’s wearing a patriotic shirt to boot!

    Jethro laid on that ground wondering how to explain why a Black woman had to save his ass. And there are White folks joining in the beatdown-lol.

  • Forreal

    Thank you for being one of the few people that understand what true, selfless compassion is!!

    At what point did it become okay to stand by and watch someone be brutalized simply bc “he wouldn’t do the same” for a black person? Are we that embittered? Exercise some virtue and be glad someone somewhere cares about somebody else regardless of their beliefs! Or else, the cycle WILL continue…

  • Annoyed

    My comment was in response to @simplyme 6:33. I do not co-sign with the attacks on this young woman. She was there to counter protest so how does that make her a mammy? Sweet jazus if these black folks had killed this racist you’d be all over the justice system and calling for freeing the Whatever 25. She saved these people from a trip to jail or worse. You all need to learn to see past your hatred of white people otherwise you will spend your whole life in a neck brace from whiplash reactions. When did white people become the standard of measure for behavior anyway?

  • Hey There Mikey

    Thank you boo!!!

  • keepingitnatural

    This is actually how humans should treat each other,evdn those that hate you. Violence for ing.anything.
    Alot of you have the same racist sentiments so how is that.any better?

  • Ask_Me

    *Face palm at some of these comments.*

    Hate is not a remedy for hate. Sorry, but it is not. I would not have had the courage that this woman showed. I applaud her for doing what she felt was right.

    Some here have said, “They would not do the same for us.”

    There is one problem with ^^this statement: There have been some whites who have done exactly that.

    Recall the mob that gathered around Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine when she made the mistake of showing up at Central high school alone. A white woman by the name of Grace Lorch came to her aid. She escorted her onto a bus.

    Some of you really need to do some soul searching and try to find some internal peace. Life is too damn short to sit around hating folks because they don’t share your hatred/ideology and because they don’t share your race. You cannot control the way others view you, but you can control the way you choose to respond.

  • Stephanie Taylor

    She is a TRUE christian, she was doing what god has been telling us to do since forever, love and care for one another. For all you people that are putting her down, I have a question, What would Jesus do??? Giving ya’ll the side eye.

  • leelah

    I her whAt you are saying but I think the ‘they’ being referred to is the KKK, not random white people

  • eve-audrey

    as far as i am concerned i don’t mind helping a random white person but one who has nazi tattoos? nope because it’s one person who openly shows he/she hates you and would not do the same for you so why would you put your life at risk to help such an individual?
    only in wonderland the world becomes a better place when you help some one who would harm you for fun if given the occasion not in real life. come back on earth with us.

  • eve-audrey

    i think people feel like the same ones constantly get taught about compassion and forgiveness. we’re all human beings. saving another human being from being harmed when you know that human being does not even see you as a human being demands i don’t even know what kind of personality trait. not everyone posesses that.
    see if black person harms a white/non-black person the whole black race gets blamed and their anger is deemed right buuttt in a case like this one you go on judging the black folks who express frustration?

  • i.mean.really.

    Yes, there are white people who would step in and help black person in need.

    HOWEVER, that ain’t gonna happen at a klan rally. This was a klan rally. The only ‘help’ that would’ve been offered would be to get a black neck in a noose.

  • Karyn

    Where is this guy now? Hmmm….

    SN: I probably would have dropped a few kicks for the ancestors and nem. No Lie. No shame. No regrets.

  • Guest1234

    Thank you. This woman is a saint. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do the same, but that’s not really something I’m proud of. She didn’t save him b/c he’s white, and she worships white people or whatever. She saved him because he’s human. It doesn’t matter that he’s a worthless scum of a human being, she saw humanity in him, and saved it. That’s admirable. Period.

    Some of these folks need to unlearn that hate imbedded in American culture. It’s toxic. Just because some one else wants to fill their hearts with poisonous hatred doesn’t mean that we have to follow them off that cliff. A racist’s hate is his own. I won’t carry hate for him. It’s not worth it. Kudos to this extraordinary woman.

  • Apple

    Well black people have been turning the other cheek for 400 years and what has that got us? Dead, behind, or in jail. So when god decides to intervene and makemthings equal let us know

  • Apple

    We not hating we just showing indifference. And we showed love for years and where has that got us? News flash we aren’t sitting around hating white folks passing laws against them, inventing new laws, systematically oppressing them, flighting out neighborhoods when they come, making racist costumes about them, making entertainment to vilify them or following them with guns and shooting them in parks, subways and street corners . So miss us with the “hate” conversation

  • Ms. Write

    Yes! This comment.

  • Kelley Johnson

    This woman is pathetic. IMO, there’s nothing honorable about what she did. No way in hell would I ever put my life on the line, for some white man who’d have me and mine swinging from the nearest tree if he were given the chance. No way would I put my family through the paid of having to deal with my death just to save the life of some worthless white piece of shit. No way.

    Don’t fall for this propaganda. This woman is their noble negress. Their mammy. This is not something to be proud of or to emulate. No way.

  • Kelley Johnson

    She’s not a better person than you. What she did was put a person who doesn’t see her as human above her own safety and well being. There’s nothing honorablel in what she did. It was pathetic mammy behavior. Nothing honorable about that. She would have let her mother bury her just to save a white racist. She’s not better than you at all.

  • Kelley Johnson

    All the more reason black people need to leave the chuch behind. We really bought that crap hook, line, and sinker. And it’s gotten us nowhere.

  • Kelley Johnson


  • NoitAll

    No. This Comment. This “sainthood” is why slavery lasted so long and Jim Crow didn’t end until mid-20th century. We loves Massa, or are afraid of him. Most of us don’t have the strength or the courage to stand up for ourselves when he comes around with his white hood and his rope.

  • apple

    turns out as suspected…he never thanked her, never talked to her since that day.

  • Bridget

    I don’t disagree with you at all. The comment you just made was spot on.

  • Job

    This young woman should be praised, not condemned
    Jesus said “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens,since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

    This is what we should all strive for. If everyone showed this type of love the world would be a better place for everyone. We shouldn’t lower ourselves to the hateful levels of our enemies. That would make us no better than them.

    “For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors (racists) doing the same thing? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations (KKK members etc.) doing the same thing?”

  • Job

    “Return evil for evil to no one.” or “Do not repay evil with evil” (Romans 12:17)

  • Teresa

    When i read the article i thought of the little girl who had acid thrown on her face because she was blogging about the risk girls took in getting an education. I believe her name is Maylayla. She was giving an interview with Jon Stewart and made a comment about what she would do if confronted by the Tali ban. I loved her response. You need to Google the interview but the thing that struck me and relates to.the picture was that she said that she wouldn’t have used violence because that would make her no better than them.

    Then I read the comments. Who told you that this woman was a Mammy? Yes i know the historical origin of the term and image and the significance. It just strikes me that because of her appearance others feel right and justified to degrade her by using the same terminology used by others to define,degrade and divide the black community.

    She was protesting against that man’s belief and events happened that turned where she was at that moment into a mob and she stepped out of the mob.mentality and said this isn’t right.
    If someone doesn’t like what she did, fine and understandable. But the name calling and getting into her psyche of how she and anyone else who would have done the same just love the “Massa” has to evolve to the next level.

  • Cory

    Malala was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt.

  • Anthony

    The day I see white people seriously apply forgiveness and turning the other cheek to people like blacks in the justice system, I will consider forgiving those who me because of my race.

  • pvo

    when pocahontas gets real

  • greendoondoon

    If it were me, I would’ve made like Dionne Warwick and walked on by. Dude would’ve had a well-whooped ass if he had waited for me to save him. If that scumbag Nazi is still living, he probably sent champagne and flowers to George Zimmerman.

  • greendoondoon

    Why do black people have to be forgiving all the damned time. We constantly “pray on it,” “put it in God’s hands,” “don’t want to have hate in our hearts.”
    This man and his ilk are the ones that dragged James Byrd to his death, blew up a church with four little girl in it, post about killing black babies, and we have to forgive them? The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi and it should’ve been in God’s hands whether he survived a beating or not.

  • Erin

    I think you are talking about Malala. She was actually shot in the head and survived. She is from Pakistan.

  • Teresa

    cory and erin, thank you for the correction.

  • Ask_Me

    Whatever. I save who I wanna save. Mind your business.

  • Blasè

    wow i suddenly got tearful. wish i had her courage

  • Deidrah

    What would Jesus Christ do? The same thing this good Woman did.

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