Historical News on Hate Violence and Pathological Bias

June 16, 2006


By Peter Dreier

On June 13, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing for its failure to adopt federal anti-lynching legislation, first proposed 105 years ago at a time when lynchings were a frequent occurrence. In the first half of the 20th century, several hundred anti-lynching laws were filed in Congress, and three were passed by the House of Representatives, but the Senate -- controlled by Southern Democrats, who used the filibuster -- consistently refused to adopt the law. One of the most powerful was Richard Russell (D-Georgia), whose name now adorns the Senate office building where the resolution was crafted.

What is outrageous is that 20 Senators initially declined to cosponsor the resolution, drafted by Sen. Mary Landreiu (D-Louisiana). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.....) insisted on a voice vote, rather than a roll call vote, to avoid forcing members to put themselves on record. Even so, pressure from constituents pushed seven additional Senators to add their names as co-sponsors after the vote was taken.

Thirteen Republicans - including Trent Lott and Thad Cochran from Mississippi, the state with the most lynchings - continued to avoid joining the list of cosponsors. (The other holdouts include Lamar Alexander [TN], Robert Bennett and Orrin Hatch [Utah], John Cornyn [TX], Michael Crapo [Idaho], Michael Enzi and Craig Thomas [Wyoming], Chuck Grassley [Iowa], Judd Gregg and John Sununu [NH], and Richard Shelby [Alabama]). Even today, it seems, lynching remains controversial.

Many news reports of the Senate' s action noted that there were 4,732 recorded lynchings between 1882 and 1951, although there were certainly many undocumented lynchings before and during that period. Most of the recorded lynchings occurred before 1930. The vast majority of lynchings took place in the South and the border states, although lynchings were not unknown in the North and Midwest, too. Three-fourths of the victims were black.

Missing from most recent news accounts of the Senate's apology are the underlying social conditions that led to most lynchings and the resulting fluctuations in lynchings. Between 1880 and 1930, 2805 people - 2500 of them black - were killed by lynch mobs in the 10 southern states.

According to Stewart Tolnay and E.M. Beck's authoritative study, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, on average, "a black man, woman, or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week" during those years by a white lynch mob.

But the number of lynchings each year fluctuated widely, highly correlated with the price of cotton. Low cotton prices - an indication of poor economic conditions - led to an increase in lynchings. When economic conditions improved, lynchings declined.

This suggests that while most Southern whites -- especially rural farmers and workers -- held racist beliefs, they did not always act on these beliefs through mob violence. Economic hard times brought out the worst in these people, pushing them to act out their frustrations.

Obviously, the victims of lynchings were not responsible for the value of cotton or the general level of business activity. In that way, lynching was an irrational act, a form of scapegoating, not unlike the way the German people vented their frustrations by vilifying and killing Jews when their country was thrown into economic depression in the 1930s.

Peter Dreier, professor of politics and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program at Occidental College, is co-author of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century (University Press of Kansas, 2005) and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (University of California Press, 2005).

  • Tikkun.Org
  • - www.tikkun.org
    April 28, 1913


    By Russell Aiuto. PhD.

    The crowd on the grounds of the state capital in Atlanta numbered in the thousands. There were bib-overalled gaunt farmers with their wives and children, state employees with stiff celluloid collars and straw hats, shopkeepers with aprons and arm-banded sleeves.

    They were waiting for the Baptist minister to rouse them, to fuel their smoldering anger. When the preacher had finished, proclaiming the man on trial, Leo Frank, to be a despoiler of innocence, the devil who had killed the little girl, Mary Phagan, the crowd cried, "Hang him, hang him, hang the Jew!" Over the shouts and the frenzied babbling, fiddling John Carson began to play and sing "The Ballad of Mary Phagan."

    But the story did not end with his death. It is a case of injustice that continues to echo through the Twentieth Century and beyond. It generated the formation of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and produced the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, two organizations that exist to this day. It is a sad tale of anti-Semitism, the clash of cultures, and an egregious miscarriage of justice.

    Leo Frank was, in many respects, a colorless individual. He was a thin, wiry man, nervous, high strung, and an incessant smoker of cigars. A business associate described him as uncongenial. A photograph of Frank on the witness stand shows a bespectacled milquetoast of a man. He had a conventional, middle-class, Jewish childhood, attended Brooklyn Public Schools, the Pratt Institute, and, in 1906, graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. His first job was in Massachusetts, but soon thereafter he moved back to Brooklyn. Soon thereafter, his uncle, Moses Frank, invited him to establish the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, Georgia. The young Leo invested in the enterprise, and became a part owner of the factory.

    Four days after the murder, a Coroner's Jury convened to determine whether Frank should continue to be held without bail, until a Grand Jury could decide whether or not he should be indicted. The principal witness was Leo Frank, who repeated to the jury what he had told the police at the time the body was discovered. No evidence was introduced that contradicted his account of having paid Mary Phagan her wages at noon, and leaving the building at 6:00 p.m. Numerous witnesses corroborated Frank's account.

    However, Frank was extremely nervous during his police interrogation, and, apparently to the police, he had the demeanor of a guilty man. He reinforced this impression by immediately asking for the pencil factory's lawyer, Herbert Haas, and a second lawyer, Luther Rosser --- who would become his chief defense lawyer --- to join him at police headquarters. Word spread immediately throughout the city that Leo Frank had hired lawyers before his interrogation, showing that this was a man with a guilty conscience.

    The jury was charged, and less than four hours later, returned a verdict of guilty. Thousands surrounding the courthouse went wild with joy when they heard the verdict. The atmosphere was so charged that Judge Roan postponed the sentencing until the next day, and then, in secret session, sentenced Leo Frank to death by hanging.

    Judge Roan denied the appeal, but curiously added: "I have thought about this case more than any other I have tried. I am not certain of the man's guilt. With all the thought I have put on this case, I am not thoroughly convinced that Frank is guilty or innocent." But, Roan said further, the jury had been convinced, and on that basis was compelled to rule against the motion for a new trial.

    A month later, just before midnight on August 16, 1915, 25 men appeared at the Milledgeville Prison gates, overpowered the two guards on duty, and handcuffed the warden and the superintendent. The lynch mob consisted of some of Marietta's finest citizens, including a clergyman and an ex-sheriff. Frank calmly started to dress, and was told that he needn't bother. He was taken out dressed only in prison shirt and pants, brought to a car --- one of several in the caravan, and driven to Marietta, some seven hours drive away. They drove all night, and, as dawn came, stopped at an oak grove outside of Marietta.

    The leaders of the lynch party tried to get Frank to confess to the murder of Mary Phagan, but he would not. His denials were apparently convincing, since many in the group changed their minds about lynching Frank. The leadership, however, prevailed. There was no turning back, they told their reluctant comrades. Frank asked to have his wedding ring returned to his wife. Once more he was asked to confess. He said nothing. They then placed him on a table, threw the rope, now in a hangman's knot around his neck, around the limb of an oak tree, and kicked the table out from under him. They did not wait to see what they had accomplished, but left as Frank was swinging from the tree.

    Who actually committed the murder isn't the point. A witness/perpetrator, a politician, a newspaper editor? Many feed off the deep resentments of anti-Semitic hate that were fueling their bias and prejudice.

    Russell Aiuto is a retired educator. He was a college professor of biology, specializing in genetics, a dean, a provost and a college president. He has a BA in theater from University of Michigan, a BA in biology and English from Eastern Michigan University and an MA and Ph.D. in genetics and botany from the University of North Carolina. After his academic career at Albion College (MI) and Hiram College (OH) he was a division director at the National Science Foundation, director of research and development for the National Science Teachers Association, and senior project officer for the Council of Independent Colleges.

  • Crimelibrary.Com
  • - www.crimelibrary.com
    June 10, 1998


    As Jasper authorities Tuesday sought to establish a motive in the death of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained and dragged to his death behind a pickup truck.

    Three white men, John William King, 23, Shawn Berry 23, and Lawrence Brewer Jr., 31, have been arrested. Berry has already given a confession that implicates the other two as the principal assailants. Both King and Brewer had links to white supremacist groups while serving terms in state prison.

    The lead defense witness was tattoo artist Johnny "Big Mo" Mosley, a fellow inmate when King was serving a prison stretch for burglary.

    Mosley, serving 10-15 years for burglary and sexual assault, said King wanted the racist tattoos that blanket his body so he could intimidate other inmates and avoid being sexually assaulted.

    The other witnesses called Monday were Gilbert Cunningham, King's roommate for the eight months preceding the killing, and roofing contractor Dennis Symmack, King's boss.

    Both men said they never heard King threaten anybody, though they acknowledged under cross-examination that he harbored privately held racist views. "Bill was a quiet man, not a talker," Symmack said, though while driving to work together King would frequently express "an intense dislike of blacks," he said.

    He also said King claimed "blacks are different from whites and are taking over everything -- taking over welfare."

    In the course of the killing King reportedly made a reference to the "Turner Diaries," a fascistic novel which was in the possession of Timothy McVeigh when he was arrested for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

    Forensic Dr. Thomas J. Brown testified that Byrd was alive, suffering horribly and vainly trying to save himself as he was pulled behind a pickup truck by a chain attached to his ankles.

    "It was my opinion (that) Mr. Byrd was alive up to the point he hit the culvert," Brown said. "He was alive when the head, shoulder and right arm were separated."

    The testimony of Brown at the capital murder trial of King is important, because prosecutors, in order to seek a death penalty against King, must show Byrd's murder also occurred in conjunction with another crime. In this case, it would be kidnapping.

    The Texas Department of Public Safety noted that most hate crimes in Texas are fueled by racial or ethnic hatred.

    The black mayor of Jasper said race relations in the town were good: "Here you have a hospital administrator who is black, the executive director of the East Texas Council of Government is black, the president of the chamber of commerce is black, the past president of the school board is black and the mayor and two councilmen are black.

  • CNN.Com
  • - www.cnn.com
    November 2, 1999


    By David Cullen

    Aaron McKinney's lawyer sent his murder trial to the jury Tuesday morning with a gay panic lite defense, arguing that a sexual advance by Matthew Shepard triggered McKinney's murderous rage, which was aggravated by his drug abuse.

    Two sentences from lead defense attorney Dion Custis neatly summarized his defense: "It started because Matthew Shepard grabbed his balls. It continued because Aaron McKinney was a chronic meth user."

    McKinney, 22, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the October 1998 bludgeoning of the 21-year-old gay college student. Shepard was found tied to a fence, and died five days later of wounds to his face and head. The defense is fighting for a reduced conviction of second-degree murder or manslaughter to escape the death penalty.

    Judge Barton Voigt ruled against the controversial "homosexual rage" defense Monday, forbidding testimony on McKinney's homosexual history. In response Tuesday, Custis continued to characterize the attack as a spontaneous rage brought on by Shepard's alleged sexual advance in the truck, but dramatically toned down the rhetoric.

    Voigt did not follow through on a threat to rule out the manslaughter option altogether. "The Court is not yet convinced that a manslaughter instruction will even be given in this case," he wrote in Monday's decision letter barring the gay panic defense. "Such an instruction is not appropriate in a case that turns out to be 'a premeditated gaybashing or robbery poorly disguised as' homosexual rage." But he read the instruction Tuesday.

    Both sides agreed that McKinney committed the murder, with Custis actually using that legal term in his closing argument. The points of contention boiled down to whether the act was premeditated or the result of extreme intoxication.

    Prosecutor Cal Rerucha alluded to testimony that McKinney was actually sober at the time of the killing, and focused on his final request for Shepard, Eighteen hours later, Shepard, died five days later at a Fort Collins, to read McKinney's license plate as the most damning proof of premeditation -- allegedly proving that McKinney intentionally killed Shepard to make sure he could never be a witness in a case against him.

    The drug-dealing roofer was found guilty of murder in the beating of gay college student Matthew Shepard, a death so brutal that it set off hate-crime legislation campaigns across the United States. The verdict of two counts of felony murder makes Aaron McKinney eligible for the death penalty. He was also convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

    In Wyoming's Legislature, however, proposed hate-crime bills failed. Opponents complained that gays and other protected groups would get special treatment and argued that existing laws are enough. President Clinton's push to expand federal hate crime legislation to protect gays also fell short.

  • Salon.Com
  • - www.salon.com
    December 25, 1951


    Harry Moore was born in Houston, Florida, on 18th November, 1905. After the death of his father in 1914 Moore was sent to live with his mother's sister in Daytona Beach. The following year he moved to Jacksonville where he lived with another of his aunts, Jessie Tyson.

    In 1919 Moore began his studies at the Florida Memorial College. After graduating he became a schoolteacher in Cocoa, Florida. He later became principal of Titusville Colored School in Brevard County.

    Moore established the Brevard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1934. With the support of the NAACP attorney, Thurgood Marshall, Moore led the campaign to obtain equal pay for African Americans working in Florida's schools. Moore also began organizing protests against lynching in Florida.

    In 1944 he formed the Florida Progressive Voters League which succeeded in tripling the enrollment of registered black voters. By the end of the Second World War over 116,000 black voters were registered in the Florida Democratic Party. This represented 31 per cent of all eligible black voters in the state, a figure that was 51 per cent higher than any other southern state.

    Moore's successful campaigns had made him unpopular with powerful political figures in Florida and in June 1946 he was dismissed from his teaching job. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People responded by appointing Moore as its organizer in Florida. Moore was a great success in this role and by 1948 the NAACP had over 10,000 members in Florida.

    In 1949 Moore organized the campaign against the wrongful conviction of three African Americans for the rape of a white woman in Groveland, Florida. Two years later, the Supreme Court ordered a new trial. Soon afterwards, Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County, shot two of the men while in his custody. One was killed and other man was seriously wounded.

    Sheriff Wills McCall was a big man,6 feet 1, 215 pounds, with soft, pudgy cheeks, an itchy trigger finger and size 13 feet that authorities said he used to kick a retarded black man to death.

    After the shooting Moore called for the McCall's suspension. A month later, on 25th December, 1951, a bomb exploded in Moore's house killing him and his wife. Although members of the Ku Klux Klan were suspected of the crime, the people responsible were never brought to trial.

  • Spartacus.Schoolnet.Co.Uk
  • - www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
    June 15, 1999


    Nadezhda was disabled by birth; she had malformation of the legs and arms, and was mentally retarded. She lived with her sister's family in Sofia.

    On June 15th, 1999, at about 8 p.m. in the center of Sofia (Zona B-5 neighborhood), four school boys at the age of 15-16, beat to death the 33-year old Roma beggar Nadezhda Roumenova Dimitrova.

    The four boys had met several hours before the murder in the local High School #30, on the occasion of the end of the school year 1998/1999. From their testimonies, it became clear that they had gathered to a drinking party before they committed the attack.

    After 8 p.m. the four of them headed for the skate-board square, which was close to the private store. There they took notice of Nadezhda, who was hanging around. The 15-year old D. cried out : "Hey, you gypsy, what are you doing here?" and started kicking and hitting her.

    When the woman stopped moving, the group went away. They continued drinking alcohol. Later they returned to the spot of the incident, where D. started kicking Nadezhda again. None of them could see that she was already dead.

    An investigation on the murder had been initiated by the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office. The major suspect of the murder is D. According to Ms. Atanaska Ivanova - Headmaster of the school, none of the four schoolboys has been affiliated with any skinhead groups.

    Even with the confessions of the suspects, by the end of the year 2000, a year and a half after the murder, the Sofia city prosecutor Investigator Kastov still has not produced justice to the memory of Ms. Dimitrova. Case number 235/99.

  • WomenAction.Org
  • - www.womenaction.org
    March 21, 1981


    In 1981 the trial of Josephus Andersonan, an African American charged with the murder of a white policeman, took place in Mobile.

    At the end of the case the jury was unable to reach a verdict. This upset members of the Ku Klux Klan who believed that the reason for this was that some members of the jury were African Americans.

    At a meeting held after the trial, Bennie Hays, the second-highest ranking official in the Klan in Alabama said: "If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man."

    On Saturday 21st March, 1981, Bennie Hays's son, Henry Hays, and James Knowles, decided they would get revenge for the failure of the courts to convict the man for killing a policeman. They travelled around Mobile in their car until they found nineteen year old Donald walking home. After forcing him into the car Michael Donald was taken into the next county.

    Beside the road a rope was strung up upon a tree branch where Hays and Knowles lynched 19 year old Michael Donald.

    Michael Donald was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1962. He attending a local trade school and worked part-time at the Mobile Press Register.

    A brief investigation took place and eventually the local police claimed that Donald had been murdered as a result of a disagreement over a drugs deal.

    Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald, who knew that her son was not involved with drugs, was determined to obtain justice. She contacted Jessie Jackson who came to Mobile and led a protest march about the failed police investigation.

    In June 1983, After Jackson's persuaded the FBI to investigate the murder, Knowles was found guilty of violating Donald's civil rights and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Six months later, when Henry Hays was tried for murder, Knowles appeared as chief prosecution witness. Hays was found guilty and sentenced to death.

    With the support of Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), Beulah Mae Donald decided that she would use this case to try and destroy the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. Her civil suit against the United Klans of America took place in February 1987. The all-white jury found the Klan responsible for the lynching of Michael Donald and ordered it to pay 7 million dollars. This resulted the Klan having to hand over all its assets including its national headquarters in Tuscaloosa.

    After a long-drawn out legal struggle, Henry Hayes was executed on 6th June, 1997. It was the first time a white man had been executed for a crime against an African American since 1913.

  • Spartacus.Schoolnet.Com.Uk
  • - www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
    April 22, 1993


    A decade ago, teenager Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death near to his home in Eltham, south London.

    The family doggedly pursued the case and eventually five young men were identified as suspects. A private prosecution of three of the men by Stephen's parents failed and none of the five have ever been convicted in connection to his death. After coming to power in 1997, Tony Blair's government launched a public inquiry into Neville and Doreen Lawrence's allegations.

    The Macpherson Inquiry became one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain. It concluded that Stephen Lawrence had been failed by a police force infected with "institutional racism".

    The inquiry team said institutional racism applies where there has been a "collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin."

    The inquiry also demanded the police categorise a crime as racist where the incident "is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person, rather than their own conclusion.

    Sir William Macpherson's inquiry had an enormous impact on the race relations debate - from criminal justice through to all public authorities. Supporters of the Lawrences saw the inquiry as confirming what they already suspected - that justice worked differently depending on the colour of your skin.

    The aftermath of Stephen Lawrence's murder marked a low-point in relations between ethnic minorities and the police in the UK, something which senior officers say they are still trying to rectify. Morale within the Metropolitan Police took a collective dip.

    But a lot of campaigners say the system is still failing minority communities. The latest statistics show black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people - even though only 10% of these incidents lead to the police taking further action.

  • - news.bbc.co.uk
    June 19, 1982


    Vincent Chin a 27 year-old Chinese American went to a Detroit bar with three friends to celebrate his upcoming wedding.

    There, two white auto workers, Ronald Ebens and his step-son, Michael Nitz taunted him, reportedly calling him, a "Jap". Ebens complained: "It's because of you, motherfuckers, that we're out of work!" When the fist fight broke out the manager evicted all of them.

    Once outside Ebens and Nitz went to their car, took out a baseball bat from the trunk, and approached Chin and his companions who were waiting in the parking lot to be picked up by another friend. Chin and his friends started running. They were chased and hunted by Ebens and Nitz. They finally trapped Chin in front of a McDonald's restaurant where Nitz held their prey while Ebens bludgeoned himwith a baseball bat.

    Before he lost consciousness, Chin said to a friend: "It isn't fair." Four days later he died from severe head injuries. Several hundred people, originally invited to Chin's wedding, attended instead his funeral.

    Charged with second-degree murder, Ebens and Nitz were allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter.

    On March 16, 1983 Wayne County Circuit Judge Charles S. Kaufman, after hearing arguments only from the defense attorneys and not from the prosecuting attorney, sentenced the two men to three years probation and fined each of them $3,000 plus $780 in fees.

    Both of the criminals were permitted to "repay their debt" to society in monthly payment of $125. "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail," commented Judge Kaufman. "We're talking here about a man (Ebens) who's held down a responsible job with the same company for seventeen or eighteen years and his son (Nitz) who is employed and is a part-time student.

    "This happened because my son is Chinese. If two Chinese killed a white person, they must go to jail, maybe for their whole lives... Some thing is wrong with this country." Across America, news, of Judge Kaufman's sentences had been met with similar disbelief and outrage.

    The Justice Department asked the FBI to carry out the investigation. Sufficient evidence of violation was found and a federal grand jury was convened in September 1983.

    Two months later the grand jury indicted Ebens and Nitz on two counts. The following year they were in a U.S. district court whose jury convicted Ebens of violating Chin's civil rights but acquitted him of conspiracy, while acquitting Nitz of both charges. Ebens was sentenced to 25 years in jail and was told to undergo treatment for alcoholism, but he was freed after posting a $20,00 bond.

    Ebens' attorney appealed the conviction and federal appeals court overturned it in September 1986 on a technicality: one of the attorneys for Americans Citizens for Justice, who had interviewed several of the prosecution's witnesses, was said to have "improperly coached" them.

    The Justice Department ordered a retrial, which took place not in Detroit but in Cincinnati, a city whose residents not only had little exposure to Asian Americans in general but also were unfamiliar with the hostility that people in Detroit harbored against Japanese cars and Japanese-looking people. Much to the dismay of Asian Americans across the country, the Cincinnati jury acquitted Ebens of all charges. Neither he nor his stepson ever spent a day in jail.

  • AsianImprov.Com
  • - www.asianimprov.com
    June 21, 1964


    MINBUR, The FBI File for Mississippi Burning, a file spanning over forty years from June 21, 1964 until June, 2005.

    MINBUR tells of brutality, murder, injustice at the beginning of the Civil Rights Era in the mid-Sixties. The summer of 1964 was known as Freedom Summer. Thousands of people joined the racial equality movement from all parts of the country to volunteer their time and effort. One of them, Michael Schwerner, a 24 year old, Cornel University sociology student from New York, twenty year old Anthony Goodman, a Queens’ College anthropology major from New York’s Upper West Side joined the movement. Another, a Black activist, working Neshoba County, Mississippi, James Chaney helped to rally Blacks into registering to vote, learning to read and rebuild their lives. Freedom Schools were set up where people could come and participate. Mt. Zion Church in Longdale, Neshoba County in Mississippi became a Freedom School and a safe haven for people who needed help. Aside from helping the blacks join the process of civil rights people were urged to use their new found power to boycott those White owned business that denied them.

    Infuriated and intimating the white community who were long use to subservient Black society. Generations of White were used to the structure of the community they felt they controlled. During the sixties white people grew angry and frustrated at the government giving such latitude to those ‘inferior’ to them. They turned to the Klu Klux Klan, popular especially in Mississippi, where the Klan protected a way of life. Many of the Klan members were those merchants whom black people boycotted and the police who felt they were losing their established stranglehold of authority against minorities. They called Schwerner “goatee” and “Jew-boy” and the KKK perceived people from CORE as a threat to their very lives and social order.

    Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights, organized his minion to stop Schwerner and Chaney from enabling the Blacks to power.

    The Klan, covered in white sheets and hooded, as a ritual or to hide their identity, while the police openly dressed in uniforms to bring fear to the people. They wanted to stop Schwerner at Mt. Zion church. As the service ended and church attendees came out into the night air they smelled the liquor on the clothes and breath of the gang who stood in front of them shoulder to shoulder with shotgun, pistols and two by fours in their hand. The fact that Schwerner wasn’t there enraged the Klansman. They took it out on the parishioners beating them with the heavy lumber and rifle butts. One woman fell to her knees crying and begging for mercy. After the beating they set fire to Mt. Zion church, they wanted to bait those who dared to change their ways.

    Schwerner, in Oxford, Ohio, heard about the fire. He didn’t recognize it as a lure to bring him back. He was concerned about the beatings and the condition of the Church-Freedom School. All night his friend James Chaney drove Schwerner and Goodman back to Longdale. They were able to see the carnage of what was left of Mt. Zion and talk to the victims of the beatings. The trap, however, was set and driving back from Mt. Zion to Meridian, Mississippi Deputy Sherriff Cecil Price spotted the lite blue CORE station. Deputy Price, at first pulled them over because, as he noted in his report, the car didn’t slow down fast enough to 35 mph when they crossed into the city limits. He didn’t cite them with a ticket. Instead the Deputy jailed them under the suspicion of being the Mt. Zion church arsonists.

    Of course Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney weren’t offered the right to make a phone call to the CORE office in Ohio. The Miranda Rights was still two years away from being legislated. After a while concerned CORE officials started making their own phone calls. They telephoned the police in Neshoba County. They spoke to the jailer’s wife, Minnie Herring, who told the caller nobody fitting those descriptions was seen. CORE had no reason to disbelieve the woman would be lying to them. It wasn’t that the woman was evil. The culture in the South was like another country. Intolerant and strict, everybody fell under the ideas of protecting themselves from false evils. Before the call, Minnie Herring served the three young men chicken and dumplings for dinner. She knew the boys CORE was calling about were indeed there. It was June 21, 1964, Father’s Day, and no one outside the circle of the biased mentality of the Klan would see them alive.

    Later that night, about 10:30 pm, Price charged Chaney a $20 fine for speeding and released the three men from jail. Price walked them to their car along with policeman Richard Willis and told them to leave town. It was a ruse. Deputy Price and Willis followed them in their squad car south on Highway 19. At Pilgrims store the Klan were preparing and stoking their animal fury. Preacher Edgar Ray Killen, who was asked by Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers to organize the Klansman for the killing joined the gang at the Pilgrim’s parking lot where he found his partners in crime, his neighbors, his fellow church members, his fellow Klansman fighting over the right of who would pull the trigger.

    It wasn’t long until the gang saw the targeted blue car and deputy Price, in his police car with his red lights flashing. The Klansman joined in the chase following Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman. It was the plan organized by Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers told them to follow. Chaney knew he couldn’t outrun the convoy following him so he pulled to the side of the road. Soon, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were surrounded by thirty men with bats, guns and rifles. They pulled the three workers from the car and shoved them into the deputy’s police car. Deputy Price, proving his authority struck Chaney in the head with his police baton to force him faster into the cruiser. Jimmy Arledge drove the station wagon down the highway and turned onto the darkened Rock Cut Road and everyone exited from their car dragging the three CORE volunteers out of the car.

    At the side of the remote Rock Cut Road, Klansman, Bar Owner and thug Alton Wayne Roberts walked up to Michael Schwerner first, asking him if he was a nigger lover, then, at point blank shot Schwerner in the chest. He died before he hit the ground. Roberts slowly turned and dragged Anthony Goodman out of the car shooting him dead in the head and shoulder.

    Meridian trailer salesman James Jordan ran over, yelling, “Save one for me!” He grabbed the last CORE volunteer James Chaney out of the car who managed to wrestle his way from the crowd of murders only to back himself into a dead end. Chaney knew some of the men and begged for his life. James Jordan shot Chaney in the stomach, exclaiming, “You didn’t leave me nothing but a nigger, but at least I killed me a nigger.” Alton Wayne Roberts then fired into Chaney’s lower back and his head.

    The murdered men were hauled by their wrist and ankles and shoved back into the car. Horace Burnette had to stuff Schwerner ankle into the car. They drove the car to the Old Jolly Farm, owned by Olen Burrage. Posey and Arledge dumped the lifeless bodies into a hole Herman Tucker, a bulldozer operator, with six children, who first dug the hole filled it back up with the three dead bodies. Everyone watched. The deed was done. They thought no one would be the wiser.

    By June 23, 1964 the FBI was called in to investigate the disappearance of the three civil rights workers. The back waters of Mississippi had no grasp of the national surge of the Civil Rights movement and the hornet’s nest they disturbed. Their world was limited and provincial. Their information was folk lore based upon their own needs and wants of greed and stature based upon generational, limited, patriarchal hierarchy.

    Joseph Sullivan was appointed to head the investigation. Sullivan had worked for the FBI since 1941, after graduating from law school in the late thirties. By the early 1950's, Sullivan had joined the FBI's Domestic Intelligence division, whose responsibilities included keeping an eye on the KKK and other violent organizations.

    The investigation was not made easy by tight-lipped Philadelphians living in Mississippi. Everyone not from Neshoba County was considered outsiders. Sullivan said 'They, the Klan, owned the place. In spirit everyone belonged to the Klan." Local residents would often delight in sending Sullivan's agents on wild goose chases. Eventually informants were developed that led to the uncovering of the central facts of the case. All the key informants were members of the Lauderdale County (Meridian) klavern, not the Neshoba County (Philadelphia) klavern.

    Sullivan reported that "the pressure from Washington for some solution was really intense." Within weeks after his arrival in Mississippi, Sullivan was visited first by FBI Assistant Director Al Rosen. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover also met Sullivan in Jackson. Sullivan's investigation was even assisted by the military, which sent busloads of sailors from the Meridian Naval Station to aid in the search for bodies in the snake and bug infested woods and swamps of east central Mississippi where the temperature and humidity were stifling.

    Almost eleven days after the murder, two day before the 4th of July, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill on July 2, 1964.

    On October 13 Klan member James ‘I killed myself a nigger’ Jordan, Chaney’s killer, confessed his involvement in the conspiracy of the murders to the FBI and agreed to cooperate in its investigation

    A month later on November 19th Klan member another rogue, Horace Barnette, who stuffed Schwerner’s body into the car, confessed and described the actual shootings.

    In two weeks, on December 4th, nineteen members of the conspiracy were arrested and charged with violating the civil rights of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman.

    Six days later, on December 10, 1964, in the midst of the Mississippi Burning investigation, Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech he says: "I believe that even amid today's motor bursts of whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men."

    The same day King accepted the award on behalf of those in the movement who deserve the profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time,' a U. S. Commissioner dismissed the charges, declaring that the confession of the murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman based on hearsay evidence.

    Like a battle, a month later, government attorneys secured indictments against the conspirators from a federal grand jury in Jackson, Mississippi.

    In January the Justice department convened a Grand Jury and re-indicted those who were released by the commissioner. On February 24, 1965, however Federal Judge William Harold Cox, a defiant and ardent segregationist, threw out the indictments again against all conspirators other than the Sheriff/part time preacher Rainey and Deputy Price on the ground that the other seventeen were not acting "under color of state law."

    Judge William Howard Cox was appointed to the federal bench by President Kennedy in order to appease Senator James Eastland, the powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eastland was determined to win an appointment for Cox, his former roommate at Ole Miss, and campaigned shamelessly on his behalf. Eastland reportedly said to Robert Kennedy, "Tell your brother that if he will give me Harold Cox, I will give him the nigger, future Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, who Kennedy was hoping to place on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals."

    Although Judge Cox had assured Robert Kennedy prior to his appointment that he would conscientiously apply federal law, once on the bench he did what he could to frustrate Justice Department initiatives aimed at bringing about integration.

    Showing his integrity in March of ‘64, Judge Cox referred to a group of black witnesses scheduled to testify as "a bunch of chimpanzees."

    In a justice tug of war for supremacy almost two years after the murders and the throwing out of the indictments against the conspirators who took the lives of Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, the Supreme Court of the United States reinstated the indictments overruling Judge Cox.

    By October, 1967 the trial of the Neshoba Conspirators began. United States vs. Cecil Price was the first Civil Rights Trial in the United States.

    In two days, the jury returned verdicts of guilty against seven conspirators.

    On December 29, Judge Cox while imposing sentences commented: "They killed one nigger, one Jew, and a white man-- I gave them all what I thought they deserved." Roberts, the triggerman, and Bowers got ten years, accomplice Posey. Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price was sentenced by Judge Cox to a six-year prison term. He served his time at Sandstone federal penitentiary in Minnesota. After his release in 1974, Price returned to Philadelphia where he worked as a surveyor, oil company driver, and as a watchmaker in a jewelry shop. Price died on May 6, 2001. He died in the same hospital in Jackson where thirty-seven years earlier he helped transport the bodies of the three slain civil rights workers for autopsies.

    Wayne Roberts, triggerman served part of his 10 year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. He died six years later.

    Sam Bowers, Imperial Wizard of the local Klan, was sentenced for ten years for murder of the three CORE murders but served six. Described as "typical of the semi-worldly, semi-literate" men who occupied leadership positions within the Klan. He was also known for his white supremacy, anti-Supreme Court views, a passion for guns and explosives, and "a swastika fetish. Bowers was quoted as saying after the murders that "It was the first time that Christians had planned and carried out the execution of a Jew." Bowers was found guilty in another murder Washington State. In 1988, for the murder of Vernon Dahmer, a civil rights activist in Hattiesburg. Bowers is alive and in custody at the Central Mississippi Correction Facility near Pearl.

    Among the conspirators nine were acquitted, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on three of the men charged. Deputy Sheriff Willis joined Deputy Price in the chase of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. Owner of the Old Jolly Farm Burrage and bulldozer operator Herman Tucker were among those acquitted.

    Sheriff Rainey, co-defendant organized the Klansman for the murder was acquitted. A white woman juror couldn’t find it in her heart to convict a part time preacher and Rainey played it up. He became a virtual folk hero to local whites. He received applause, pats on the back, gifts, and even was sought to endorse products and services ranging from chewing tobacco to chiropractic back pain treatments. After his trial, Rainey was unable to find employment in law enforcement. He found work as a security guard first at a supermarket, then at the Meridian Mall. Rainey complained in the mid-seventies, "The FBI set out to break me of everything l had, then keep me down where I could never get another start, and they done it." Rainey suffered from throat cancer and tongue cancer. He died on November 8, 2002 at age 79.

    Killen, a former unsuccessful candidate for sheriff, was a marginal character as a Baptist minister until Sam Bowers appointed him "kleagle," or klavern recruiter and organizer, for the Neshoba and Lauderdale County Klan. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on Killen's guilt. One of the jury said she could not convict a preacher for murder.

    In 2004 however, Killen created a public uproar when he declared that he would organize a Ku Klux Klan rally for the 2004 Mississippi annual State Fair In response, More than forty years after the initial killings, in June 2005, Killen was retried on state charges. Judge Marcus Gordon sentenced Killen to serve three 20-year terms, one for each conviction of manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in 1964. Judge Gordon said in pronouncing sentence, "I have taken into consideration that there are three lives in this case and that the three lives should be absolutely respected." Sentencing followed Killen's conviction earlier in the week. After nearly three days of jury deliberations. The jury found that there was reasonable doubt as to whether Killen intended to kill the civil rights workers, and returned three consecutive life terms for manslaughter.

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  • June 12, 1963


    Born in 1925, just before the great US depression, Medgar Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi. Third of four children he remembers his youth in incidents he described like walking to school having white kids through things at him and calling him racial names. He would describe lynchings of his friends throughout his teen. Looking back he thought it was mild to what he endured later in his short life of 37 years.

    In his time and place, early 20th century Mississippi, the relationship between black and whites was a hated/death filled growing tug of war. It would be years before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights first started by the assinated President Kennedy. Of course that time before civil rights was the apex of hate violence towards blacks.

    He was witness to a black friend who was beaten to death at a fairgrounds because his friend flirted with a white woman. The action never became news by the white press and the community he lived in surrounded the wagons to protect themselves. This and other incidents, like chasing black men in the cars owned by white people every Saturday night. The message was made all to clear to the black community that their lives were worth nothing. That was his real education Mr. Evers received and pushed his consciousness to action.

    It wasnt the discipline of walking twelve miles each way to high school and earned his High School Dipolam. He had a higher vision than being oppressed. He joined the Army during the Second World War. Maybe in his stint as as fighting service man in both France and Germany for his and other countries' freedom that convinced Evers to fight on his own shores for the freedom of blacks. Serving honorably, he was discharged in 1946

    After his dicharge he felt he paid his dues to his country. He and his brother Charlie decided to exercise their right to vote. The young men decided they wanted to vote in the next election. They registered to vote without incident, but as the election drew near, whites in the area began to warn and threaten Evers's father. As the day to vote came closer, the Evers brothers found their polling place blocked by over 200 hundred, by Mr. Evers account, of armed white Mississippians. "All we wanted to be was ordinary citizens," The Germans didn't kill him but he felt his own countrymen, his own stateman, his own neighbors would.

    Medger Evers found a job as an insurance agent and married a fellow student, Myrlie Beasley. He became involved with the NAACP, organizing and planning while he was a student at Alcorn A & M College in Lorman, Mississippi.

    As an insurace agent he saw first hand the abject poverty his fellow blacks lived in. He also the more lynchings. One day he went to visit his father who lay dying in his deathbed in a Mississippi hospital. The basement was where the blacks were taken and the care was substandard. He went outside filled with anger and saw a mob of white people with rifles and guns filled with anger and hatred. Evers was also filled with anger. He saw that just like his grandfather, his father and himself the quality of their lives would never change. Nobody was looking out for them. Their life was a priveledge at best, not a right as the Constituion promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At least not with the white mentality armed with bullets and intimidation.

    It wasn't a tipping point for Medger Evers. He did however quit the insurance business and went to work for the NAACP full-time as a chapter organizer. Though he applied to the University of Mississippi law school he was denied admission. He didn't press his case. But found a higher calling and within two years he was named state field secretary of the NAACP. He became one of the most vocal and recognizable NAACP members in his state. In his dealings with whites and blacks alike, Evers spoke constantly of the need to overcome hatred, to promote understanding and equality between the races. No white people were aware to understand the message of the olive branch Medger Evers offered.

    Climbing up the ladder of the NAACP he and his family moved to the state capital of Jackson. He worked closely with black church leaders and other civil rights activists. Telephone threats and verbal threats and intimidation were a constant source of anxiety in the home. His children learned to fall on the floor whenever they heard a strange noise outside. "We lived with death as a constant companion 24 hours a day," Myrlie Evers remembered. "Medgar knew what he was doing, and he knew what the risks were. There wasn't really a decision to make. If he stood where he was growing up what type of life would he have. He just decided that he had to do what he had to do. Mrytle, knew in her heart however, at some point in time that he would be taken from me."

    threats turned increasingly to violence A few weeks prior to his death, someone threw a firebomb at his home. Afraid that snipers were waiting for her outside,

    Evers worked almost twenty four hours a day. Part of his time was taken up with meetings, economic boycotts, marches, prayer vigils, and picket lines--and with bailing out demonstrators arrested by the all-white police force. All under the pressure of the violence that was closing around him and this family. Mrytle and his children.

    NAACP believes that Jackson can change if it wills to do so," he stated. As he stated in the book 'Marytrs: Sixteen Who Gave Their Lives for Racial Justice,: "If there should be resistance, how much better to have turbulence to effect improvement, rather than turbulence to maintain a stand-pat policy. We believe that there are white Mississippians who want to go forward on the race question. Their religion tells them there is something wrong with the old system. Their sense of justice and fair play sends them the same message. But whether Jackson and the State choose to change or not, the years of change are upon us. In the racial picture, things will never be as they once were."

    On June 12, 1963, U.S. president John F. Kennedy--who would be assassinated only a few short months later--echoed this sentiment in an address to the nation. Kennedy called the white resistance to civil rights for blacks "a moral crisis" and pledged his support to federal action on integration. That same night, Evers returned home just after midnight from a series of NAACP functions. As he left his car with a handful of t-shirts that read "Jim Crow Must Go," he was shot in the back. His wife and children, who had been waiting up for him, found him bleeding to death on the doorstep. "I opened the door, and there was Medgar at the steps, face down in blood," Myrlie Evers remembered in People magazine. "The children ran out and were shouting, `Daddy, get up!'"

    Esquire contributor Maryanne Vollers wrote: "People who lived through those days will tell you that something shifted in their hearts after Medgar Evers died, something that put them beyond fear.... At that point a new motto was born: After Medgar, no more fear."

    An FBI investigation uncovered a suspect, Byron de la Beckwith, an outspoken opponent of integration and a founding member of Mississippi's White Citizens Council. A gun found 150 feet from the site of the shooting had Beckwith's fingerprint on it. Several witnesses placed Beckwith in Evers's neighborhood that night. On the other hand, Beckwith denied shooting Evers and claimed that his gun had been stolen days before the incident. He too produced witnesses--one of them a policeman--who swore before the court that Beckwith was some 60 miles from Evers's home on the night he was killed.

    Beckwith was tried twice in Mississippi, by an all-white jury for Evers's murder, once in 1964 and again the following year by another all white jury. Both trials ended in hung juries. Sam Baily, an Evers associate, commented in Esquire that during those years "a white man got more time for killing a rabbit out of season than for killing a Negro in Mississippi."

    As recently as 1991, Byron de la Beckwith was arrested a third time on charges of murdering Medgar Evers. Beckwith was extradited to Mississippi to await trial again, still maintaining his innocence and still committed to the platform of white supremacy.

    After thiry years, Byron De La Beckwith, was convicted after the fact for assassinating civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He died as a prisoner while serving a life sentence in prison. He was 80

    Jim Kitchens, one of Beckwith's attorneys in the 1994 trial, said Beckwith had a twisted idea of courage. `He was a tragic figure because he was so consumed by racial hatred,'' Kitchens said. He was very stoic about being in jail. He really thought he was a patriot.

    At Beckwith's final trial, eight of the 12 jurors were black. He was convicted of murder, and the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1997.

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    March 25, 1965


    Viola Fauver was born in Pennsylvania on 11th April, 1925

    As a child, Viola lived in Tennessee and Georgia.

    After an unsuccessful marriage and the birth of two children, Viola married Anthony J. Liuzzo, a Teamster Union official from Detroit.

    Viola had three more children and at the age of 36 she resumed her education at Wayne State University. After graduating with top honors Viola became a medical lab technician.

    A member of the NAACP, Viola decided to take part in the Selma to Montgomery March on 25th March, 1965, where Martin Luther King led 25,000 people to the Alabama State Capitol and handed a petition to Governor George Wallace, demanding voting rights for African Americans.

    After the demonstration had finished, Viola volunteered to help drive marchers back to Montgomery Airport. Leroy Moton, a young African American, offered to work as her co-driver.

    On the way back from one of these trips to the airport, Viola and Leroy, were passed by a car carrying four members of the Ku Klux Klan from Birmingham.

    When they saw a white woman and black man in the car together, they immediately knew that they had both been taking part in the civil rights demonstration at Montgomery. The men decided to kill them and after driving alongside Viola's car, one of the men, Collie Wilkins, put his arm out of the window, and fired his gun.

    Viola Liuzzo was hit in the head twice and died instantly. Leroy was uninjured and was able to get the car under control before it crashed.

    The four men in the car, Collie Wilkins (21), Gary Rowe (34), William Eaton (41) and Eugene Thomas (42) were quickly arrested. Rowe, an FBI undercover agent, testifed against the other three men.

    In an attempt to prejudice the case, rumours began to circulate that Viola was a member of the Communist Party and had abandoned her five children in order to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the civil rights movement. It was later discovered that these highly damaging stories that appeared in the press had come from the FBI.

    Despite Rowe's testimony, the three members of the Ku Klux Klan were acquitted of murder by an Alabama jury.

    President Lyndon Johnson, using an arcane Civil Rights law passed in 1870, appealed the acquittal of the three KKK members and were sentenced to 10 years imprisionement.

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