Fourteen years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent the FBI and the US Department of Justice a list of 74 cold cases involving African Americans who were allegedly murdered in racially motivated circumstances by whites between 1952 and 1968. .
Most of the crimes took place in Mississippi, which contained nearly half of the 74 cases. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee all made up the remainder.
Everything has cooled and the families of the victims have never obtained justice.
Today, a new path to justice has opened up to resolve these cold cases.
On June 11, President Joe Biden announced the first group of candidates for the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board.
The panel would have the power to declassify government records and summon new testimony that could reopen cases and publicly reveal why many racially motivated lynchings and murders of blacks have never been investigated. adequate.
“The White House hopes that the Senate will move quickly to [confirm] these candidates, ”an administration official told the National Newspaper Publishers Association. “The board was established with near unanimous bipartisan support in 2019.”
President Biden’s candidates include:
Clayborne Carson has devoted most of his professional life to the study of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movements inspired by Dr. King. Since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Dr. Carson has taught at Stanford University as the Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial Professor of History (Emeritus).
Gabrielle M. Dudley is an “Instructional Archivist” at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript Archives and the Rare Books Library at Emory University. In this role, she partners with professors and other instructors to develop courses and archive research for undergraduate and graduate students.
Hank Klibanoff is a veteran journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in history in 2007 for a book he co-wrote on media coverage of the civil rights struggle in the South. Klibanoff is the creator and host of Buried truths, a narrative history podcast produced by WABE (NPR) in Atlanta.
Margaret Burnham has served as a state court judge (appointed by Governor Michael Dukakis, 1977), civil rights lawyer, and human rights commissioner. A graduate of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Burnham has been on the Northeastern University faculty since 2002. She was named to the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellows class, an honor recognizing a select group of academics for their important work in the social and human sciences.
The panel could look at cases like the three Mississippi civil rights activists (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner) killed by the Ku Klux Klan in June 1964.
Two months later, the bodies of the activists were riddled with bullets, burned and buried in a roadblock in Neshoba County.
The Mississippi Burning affair has remained largely unsolved and largely unpunished.
In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison, but authorities closed the case and ended hopes of prosecuting others involved.
In Lowndes County, Alabama, there is the case of 18-year-old Rogers Hamilton. On a rough night in October 1957, two white men arrived at Rogers’ home, called him outside, and put him in a truck.
His mother, Beatrice Hamilton, followed the truck down a dusty road and watched in horror as they pulled Rogers out of the vehicle and shot him in the head.
When she informed the sheriff, he told her that she had not seen what she “thought she saw” and closed the case.
“No one cared about it except for his extended family, now scattered from Chicago to New York,” wrote John Fleming, editor at the Center for Sustainable Journalism, in a 2011 column. remains open, even if the reality is that this case will never be continued.
“Although the family is asking for justice, even if it means the local district attorney is indicting a deceased member of parliament, equally important to them is the fact that the story of a [man] in distant Alabama was finally informed.