Monday, February 19, 2007

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth spent time in Mississippi

A 1956 photo of Rev. Shuttlesworth from the Associated Press.

Charlotte Young of Black College Wire has written a brief article on Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth for The News Argus published by Winston-Salem State University.

In 1957, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth joined Rev. Martin Luther King, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and Bayard Rustin to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which assisted local organizations that helped blacks in the struggle for equality.

Shuttlesworth was one of the key figures in planning the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965. He helped the Congress of Racial Equality organize its Freedom Rides.

He also spent time in the Mississippi Delta where he was often the target of the Sovereignty Commission. Little has been written about the time spent in Mississippi, however.

Here are several Sovereignty Commission links on Rev. Shuttlesworth -- of course, there are many more.

* Rev. Shuttlesworth and Julian Bond are reported attending a conference at Mt. Beulah.

* Rev. Shuttlesworth comes into Jackson as an SLCL representative after protestors are locked up at the state's fairgrounds.

* State spy comments on the Rev. Shuttlesworth

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cleve McDowell worked to discover all of Emmett Till's murderers

Slain sttorney Cleve McDowell and Rev. Jesse Jackson campaign in the Mississippi Delta (as the cotton dust flies through the air). McDowell was murdered in 1997 and questions remain.

With February’s announcement of a second attempt by the U.S. Congress to open civil rights cold case files, questions re-surface over the more recent murder of a Mississippi Delta lawyer and civil rights warrior.

Cleve McDowell was killed just ten years ago – an act too recent to be investigated under the pretext of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, named after the 14-year-old African American from Chicago who was killed in 1955. Investigation and court records of McDowell’s death remain sealed.


Ten years ago on March 17 friends and family of a Mississippi attorney and civil rights veteran discovered his dead body slumped against the bathroom wall.

Cleve McDowell had been shot to death in his own home.

A Sunflower County judge slapped a gag order on the ensuing investigation and a decade later the same order remains on all public records of McDowell’s slaying – even though McDowell’s murderer was caught and convicted before the year was over.

McDowell was the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi law school. And once a lawyer, he never gave up investigating Emmett Till’s racially motivated murder that took place only several miles away from McDowell’s childhood home – plus the murders of countless others caught up in Mississippi’s civil rights battles of the 1950s and beyond.

The Drew, Mississippi native’s body was surrounded by dozens of guns – powerful handguns and rifles – all purchased over the years by McDowell for self-protection.

Initial news reports of McDowell’s murder from the Associated Press indicated

McDowell, 56, was found dead in an upstairs bathroom early that morning after relatives called police to say the door to his apartment was open and his car missing. Police continued to look for McDowell's Cadillac for two days before discovering it in a small, nearby town.

McDowell had been a public defender in Sunflower County for three decades. He was part of a group of black leaders organizing to pressure district attorneys and revive interest in many never-prosecuted cases in which blacks were killed for doing civil rights work.

During the 1980s, McDowell was the executive field director of the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

* * *

Yet no journalists’ stories have ever revealed that McDowell was killed one week before the first public release of Mississippi Sovereignty Commission files, secret government records kept on private citizens officially spied on by state officials from 1954 until 1972.

After losing a 21-year battle with the American Civil Liberties Union, Mississippi was forced into turning over thousands of Commission records that would eventually aid in solving the murders of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and others who’d worked for social justice during those turbulent years, including Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

Many of the Sovereignty Commission’s most secret records are believed to be missing, however, and McDowell’s private collection of his own investigations might have helped to fill in some of the blanks. McDowell had looked into a number of murders and other crimes over the past thirty years and stored these personal records in his Drew office.

Six months after McDowell’s death, those papers disappeared at the time of an office fire in downtown Drew.

McDowell’s former office manager states that files on the Emmett Till case were undoubtedly included in her boss’s collection of stacked boxes and in his locked office safe.

“He never let me go through any of those papers. So I don’t really know what he had. But he often spoke to Emmett’s mother and promised he would find out what happened to her son and who was involved in his murder. I know Cleve talked to her just a month before he was killed,” Nettie Davis said.

Here are some old McDowell links. Of course, there are more for you to discover. sk

Link 1/photo

Link 2/news story of entry to U of Miss.