06.09.2011

Murder of 3 civil rights activists

If you’ve seen the film “Mississippi Burning” you’re familiar with the murders of James Chaney (black), Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman (both white, Jewish). The White Knights of the KKK shot them dead and buried them in an earthen dam in 1964. The outrage in the northern half or so of the United States was immediate and fierce, as it should have been.

But there was no public outcry of any kind in the South. Very few black people, especially in Mississippi, had anything to say about the crime, as they didn’t dare incur the wrath of the white authorities. But the truly astonishing aspect is the absence of an outcry by many white people, if any, as they either agreed with the crime, or just didn’t care about the plight of blacks (and Jews, and anyone other than “WASPs”) in the South.

Racial hatred had become so rampant and impudent that the Judges who presided over the various criminals of this sort of case rarely convicted them, and then imposed the lightest sentences. The culprits of the three 1964 murders, 17 of them, were tried, and only 7 were convicted, not of murder, but of “civil rights violations,” because the prosecution didn’t believe they could be convicted, in Mississippi, of murder, which was probably true. The harshest sentences were 10 years each to two culprits. Others received 7 years, or 3 years. No one served more than 6.

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