Song by Bob Dylan on his album The Times They Are A-Changin'. I've always liked this song but was shocked after doing a google search to find out that it's not only true, but took place in 1963! I had always thought it took place in the late 1800s or something. Here's the lyrics, and below is a synopsis of the actual events.

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath'rin'.
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland,
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling,
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen.
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn't even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level,
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room,
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle.
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin' that way without warnin'.
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears.

Dylan's song is basically true except for the details. William Zantzinger went to a social gathering and got extremely drunk. He bullied several people that night with the infamous cane. Hattie Carroll worked at the Emerson Hotel at the bar where the event was taking place. Late that night when she didn't quickly get Billy his drink he struck her several times with his cane and she slumped to the ground. She was taken to the hospital and Zantzinger was taken into custody on two accounts of assault (for Carroll and another woman from earlier). Zantzinger also assaulted the arresting officers but was not charged for it.

Carroll died in the hospital while Billy was being released on bail. The charge was increased to homicide and Zantzinger was arrested again. This was the first time that a white man was ever accused of murdering a black woman in Maryland. Southern Maryland was basically part of the South during the Civil War and in the early 60s was much like the rest of the Deep South in it's degree of segregation.

During the trial the defense argued that Zantzinger was intoxicated, that the 51 year old Hattie Carroll had other health complications and her death was coincidental to the beating. Even though the Judges didn't buy this explanation they still only charged William Zantzinger with Manslaughter with a sentence of six months in jail. He even got out early on good behaviour. Zantzinger returned to normal life and was even elected to local positions. His close friends and relatives maintained that it was an accident and that Dylan's song distorted the truth.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.