Friday, January 07, 2005

Mississippi Burning

The Los Angeles Times reported today on the indictment of Edgar Ray Killen, the preacher described as the ringleader of a group of Klansmen who murdered three young civil rights workers forty years ago.

Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were trained in voter registration techniques and headed to Philadelphia, Mississippi to register blacks to vote during Freedom Summer 1964. They were arrested and accused of speeding while on their way to investigate the firebombing of a black church. As they were in jail, authorities believe Killen organized Ku Klux Klan members to arrange for the murder of all three.

Killen pleaded not guilty today in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Six other men were also under investigation, though additional arrests are not expected.

Newsday referred to the case as "one of America's last open wounds of the civil rights struggle." But James D. McIntyre, a Mississippi lawyer representing one of the targets of the state's investigation, was saddened by the indictment. "This is a bad day for the state of Mississippi...You're trying to bring comfort to a few, and you're going to hurt the masses," he said.

To which masses, I wonder, is Mr. McIntyre referring? Certainly Jewel McDonald is not among their numbers.

Jewel McDonald, 58, who is black, remembers the choking fear of that summer, when she was so terrified of arson that she put all her valuables in a cardboard box and stowed it in a chicken coop.

She waited up one night for her mother and brother, who were attending a meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church, and was horrified to see them return beaten and bloody. They had been attacked by Klan members.

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