Civil Rights

Nearly 5 Years Later, Most or All of Jena 6 in College; Victim Is Working and Moving On with Life

Six young black men who faced potential hefty prison sentences five years ago, as high school students, in a controversial case that led to civil rights protests and substantially reduced charges are now doing well.

At least five of the so-called Jena 6 are in college, according to the Associated Press. And a sixth planned to go to college, starting in 2009, a Jena 6 Blog post from August of that year states.

Originally, five of the six faced attempted murder charges over a Dec. 4, 2006 beating of a classmate. It isn’t clear that the victim did anything wrong and he tells the AP he said nothing to his attackers, although there have been reported claims that he uttered a racial slur. However, the incident followed months of racial tension at their Louisiana high school and perceptions that officials didn’t support black teens who were discriminated against by white classmates.

The white victim of the Jena 6 attack, Justin Barker, is now 22 and working on an oil rig. He says he has moved on his life, after being awarded $29,000 in a lawsuit he filed against the defendants to recover damages and the cost of his medical bills.

Among his former teen attackers, at least one aspires to become an attorney.

Theo Shaw, 21, is attending the University of Louisiana at Monroe and planning to attend law school. He says his interest in a legal career was a result of being jailed, where he read extensively about the law in order to file court papers.

“I do think it was a situation that helped me to develop character and be a better person,” he says now of the Jena 6 prosecution. “But beyond that, I don’t think of it much anymore.”

Earlier coverage: (Sept. 2007): “1000s Protest in Jena (and Elsewhere)” (Nov. 2007): “Judge Opens Jena 6 Juvenile Trial, Citizens March on DOJ” (Dec. 2007): “Bell Gets 18 Months in Jena 6 Plea Deal”

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