Monday, December 21, 2009

What Change Is All About ... Watching It Move Into Mississippi

Marching in Grenada, Miss. (Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement)

Dear Blog Readers:

I get wonderful e-mail from people who are interested in the Emmett Till story and related civil rights history. The best email, of course, comes from those who share their personal history of what it was like to be involved in the modern civil rights movement.

Here is a powerful message that I recently received from a Grenada, Miss. blogger:

Dear Susan:

Could you please mention this site -- the John Rundle High School Google Group --

I will be visiting the Emmett Till website. I have visited Money, MS and have seen the store which was still standing 5 years ago.

I am currently in Baghdad but I'll be home to Washington DC in another week or so and I'll look forward to reading your book. I want to work with our JRHS group to understand our history -- of all our citizens -- so we can start talking about a new future for Mississippi. My dream is to go back home and try to make a difference. That is the dream of many.

Charles Latham is one who has done that. I'd like to get more stories published of those that have gone home and what their perspective is for the future. I re-read Charles email to the JRHS Group from 5 years ago and it is a powerful statement.

You had to be there at the time to understand exactly how dangerous it was for a black child to try to go to a white school. I could visualize Martin Luther King Jr. shaking the hands of the children that morning of September 20, 1966, before they left to go to the schools.

As a father of three I do not know that I could do that -- but I also don't know that I could stand in my child's way if they want to stand up for what they thought was right. It was courage on an unprecedented scale and it was that courage, jijutsued by the beating of the children into a national outrage, that changed the South.

* * * *

So here is the story (printed with permission) that Michael Maxey (MMaxey) refers to, with a short introduction by Maxey:

Charles Latham is an African American alumnus of John Rundle High School. Charles was in the Class of 1971. He left Grenada and this email tells his story and why he came back home. The photograph that Charles refers to in the email is of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, escorting children to school on September 20, 1966. He was one of the black students who attended Lizzie Horn Elementary that day. I've copied Charles on this email.

Michael Maxey
JRHS 1970

Email From: "Charles Latham" To: JRHS Group
Subject: RE: JRHS Website Update >Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 11:27:33 -0800

Fellow JRHS Alumni:

My name is Charles Latham (class of '71), although I didn't know you all personally, I do remember your names and had classes with some of you. I was in the band and played trombone when Mr. Mullens was the director. I have lived and worked San Diego, Ca. since 1975.

I really appreciate the comments and the photo by Mary Gene Boteler, it brought back memories for me. And if ya'll don't mind, I'd like to share some of them with you. The girl on our left is Grace Lemon (my former sister-in-law). I remember Mrs. Lemon having a copy of the photo and a copy of the magazine the story came out in. I was also in that line that day. That day was a significant emotional event for me.

Before the march began, we all stood in line in front of our church (Bell Flower A.M.E) for an opportunity to shake Dr. King's hand. When my turn came, I remember thinking no matter what we had to go through for equality, it would be worth it. Because this man made us believe that he was there for us and would die for his beliefs.

Before that day I was content with the way things were. We lived and worshiped in our own community. Went to our own schools and played with our own friends (sounds familiar?). Even when we went to the movies and had to sit in the balcony and go outside for concessions (rain or shine) I just thought that was the way it was. I didn't realize how nice and comfortable it was downstairs. Or even that we had a right to do so.

When I would see that "third" restroom marked "colored" I had no problem using it, because that's the way it was. When I would stand in line at stores waiting to pay for merchandise and the clerk would look past me to assist a white customers first, I still waited patiently. But after that day, things were different. I don't mean that Grenada had changed, but I had. My way of thinking had.

Suddenly, I started to ask why? And later challenging the status quo.

I remember the first day we had to go to JRHS. I was determine to make new friends and live the dream Dr. King had spoken of. I remember meeting Diane Einkner and talking to her about JRHS. She was telling me about the school, where things were and how things were.

I remember people talking about us (both black and white). The fact that two young people were trying to be examples of how things should be. I remember sitting in the back of the class with Chuck Hancock and a couple of his friends joking and having fun. I don't remember all the guys names forgive I'm getting old er). Some of you even hung out with me and invited me over to your homes.Sometimes I wondered what if their parents came home and saw me there?

I also realized that those of you who chose to interact with me personally were taking a chance too. I appreciated that. Because I learned a valuable lesson that has helped me until this day. That is, I shouldn't hold all people accountable for the actions of a few.

Recently I was contacted by a reporter with the San Diego Tribune. He is doing a story on African-Americans who are cashing out of the SD area and moving back to the south. After 33 years, I've been blessed to be able to retire and go back home. I've even hired Ronnie Collins' younger brother Odie to build our dream home. The reporter interviewed my family last night. His interview with me has led him to Grenada. Where he is scheduled to go there next week to talk to others who have also moved back to Grenada from SD.

One lady, who was originally from Itta Bena and lived in SD for forty years, purchased a home over the internet (sight unseen) will be featured in the story. Ray Branscome, Joe Lee III and the honorable Diane Freelon will also be interviewed.

I am proud to be a Grenadian and look forward to going back there and contributing to the city's success. Grenada has come a long way in just forty years. And I still believe that we all (God's children) have a responsibility to make this world a better place. And I try to do that one relationship at a time. When the time comes that we do have a reunion, I will be happy to assist in any way I can.

May God bless you all.

Charles H. Latham
* * *

As if turns out, Charles Latham's name does appear in Sovereignty Commission records. Here are several links, to get started:

A weekly report from 1971

Names of Black Youth Group Members

Another report, before Latham's times, is from 1958 regarding NAACP activity NAACP activities

Lots more to check out in the Files Section under Grenada County ...

Good Reading and Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Look at Civil Rights Movement as an Insurgency'

Delta at night... good time for suspicious activities...

The U.S. Civil Rights Movement as an Insurgency: This is interesting:

"Most Americans fail to appreciate that the Civil Rights movement was about the overthrow of an entrenched political order in each of the Southern states, that the segregationists who controlled this order did not hesitate to employ violence (law enforcement, paramilitary, mob) to preserve it, and that for nearly a century the federal government tacitly or overtly supported the segregationist state governments. That the Civil Rights movement employed nonviolent tactics should fool us no more than it did the segregationists, who correctly saw themselves as being at war. Significant change was never going to occur within the political system: it had to be forced. The aim of the segregationists was to keep the federal government on the sidelines. The aim of the Civil Rights movement was to "capture" the federal government -- to get it to apply its weight against the Southern states. As to why it matters: a major reason we were slow to grasp the emergence and extent of the insurgency in Iraq is that it didn't -- and doesn't -- look like a classic insurgency. In fact, the official Department of Defense definition of insurgency still reflects a Vietnam era understanding of the term. Looking at the Civil Rights movement as an insurgency is useful because it assists in thinking more comprehensively about the phenomenon of insurgency and assists in a more complete -- and therefore more useful -- definition of the term."

From Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.
* * * * *

I found it fascinating to back through some of the the Sovereignty Commission files, in light of what this writer says regarding insurgency and the civil rights movement.

Of course there were countless files on the Deacons of Defense...

Sov Comm watched Mario Savio from afar ...

Here's a warning on Mau Mau ceremonies ... no kidding...

The Mississippi Council on Human Relations had a special file ...

Mt. Beulah Christian Institute was to be watched...

And here's an report on Allen Dulles and the influence of Communism on the Civil Rights Movement ... Good Reading!
* * * * *

Also found this article interesting, “Why the Civil Rights Movement was an Insurgency, and Why it Matters” Mark Grimsley, Ph.D., Harold K. Johnson Visiting Professor of Military History, U.S. Army War College (Blog Them Out of the Stone Age)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Fred Hampton Must Have Scared the Crap Out of Mississippi

Fred Hampton, Activist

At 4am on December 4th, 1969, the FBI, working with the Chicago police department, assassinated Chicago Black Panther Party Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton in his bed as he slept. Along with the murder of Mark Clark in the same apartment that night, the "raid" was one in a long line of illegal actions taken by the FBI as part of its COINTELPRO war against the social justice and anti-war movements.

Hampton's death was chronicled in the 1971 documentary film The Murder of Fred Hampton, as well as an episode the documentary series Eyes on the Prize.

Hampton was known as a skilled leader, and the FBI kept close tabs on his activities; FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black radical movement in the United States. Hoover viewed the Panthers, and other such radical coalitions, as a move toward the creation of a revolutionary body that could potentially overthrow the U.S. government.

The FBI opened a file on Hampton in 1967 that over the next two years expanded to twelve volumes and over four thousand pages. A wire tap was placed on Hampton's mother's phone in February 1968. By May of that year, Hampton's name was placed on the "Agitator Index" and he would be designated a "key militant leader for Bureau reporting purposes.

Not surprisingly, Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was keeping tabs on Hampton, too. Here are several links to get started ...

A letter dated Jan. 20, 1970 from the Committee to Defend the Panther 21. Ralph Abernathy’s name is at the top of the list of sponsors and has been circled.

A speech by Carl Braden at the University of Mississippi. "Don't end up ... and get murdered like Fred Hampton." Notes the RNA came to Mississippi for reasons of peace and media has misrepresented its efforts. Report is unsigned but stamped by the University Police.

Several heavily redacted news articles from the Commercial Appeal, Times Picayune, etc. from 1970.

Should make for some good reading ... even if the best files are probably still hidden somewhere underground in Jackson or nearby.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Friends of Justice Moves into Winona on Murder Case; Former Employee Accused of Multiple Murders

(Photo: Legendary Organizer Fannie Lou Hamer by Charmain Reading)

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi Delta civil rights leader, was frequently the target of social injustice. The town where she was once beaten, Winona, is currently the target of a murder investigation by the Friends of Justice.

Friends of Justice launches narrative-based campaigns around unfolding cases where due process has broken down, and empower affected communities to hold public officials accountable for equal justice.

Recently, representatives moved into Winona, Miss. to work on a murder case, asserting that the state’s theory of the murder crime accused of a Winona company's former worker, Curtis Flowers, "... doesn’t fit the actual evidence, and the state manufactured phoney evidence by manipulating, badgering and bribing witnesses."

Details of the Curtis Flowers case are shared at the FOJ website in a story titled, "A brief primer in wrongful conviction: the case of Curtis Flowers."


It wouldn't be the first time the this small town has been accused of participating in social injustices ...

WINONA IS A CITY in Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 5,482 at the 2000 census. The name of the city comes from a Sioux word meaning "first-born daughter." It is the county seat of Montgomery County[2]. Winona is known in the local area as "The Crossroads of North Mississippi" due to its central location at the intersection of U.S. Interstate 55 and U.S. Highways 51 and 82.

It is also known in the civil rights arena as the small town where Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was jailed and beaten, after attending a voting rights conference.

The Voter Registration informational meeting had been organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Hamer, a Delta sharecropper, heard from SNCC something she'd never heard before: black people had the right to vote.

Becoming a field organizer for SNCC, Hamer was returning home from a voter training workshop in June 1963, when she and two others were taken to jail in Winona, Mississippi, and mercilessly beaten. Hamer suffered permanent damage to her kidneys. After recovering from her injuries, she traveled across the U.S. telling her story and raising more money for SNCC than any other member.

Mrs. Hamer's telling account before the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey on August 22, 1964 -- of what happened when she was arrested and beaten -- stunned a nation when the speech was heard on national televsion.

(Photo, The Freedom Archives)

Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights leader, was beaten in Winona, Miss.

Hamer was attending the convention with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), formed to expand black voter registration and challenge the legitimacy of the state's all-white Democratic Party.

MFDP members arrived at the 1964 Democratic National Convention intent on unseating the official Mississippi delegation or at least getting seated with them. On August 22, 1964, Hamer appeared before the convention's credentials committee and told her story about trying to register to vote in Mississippi.

Threatened by the MFDP's presence at the convention, President Lyndon Johnson quickly preempted Hamer's televised testimony with an impromptu press conference. But later that night, Hamer had fascinating so many people around the country with her partly-told story, that it was broadcast in its entirety on all the major networks.

After speaking to the Credentials Committee, acompromise was reached that gave voting and speaking rights to two delegates from the MFDP and seated the others as honored guests. The Democrats agreed that in the future no delegation would be seated from a state where anyone was illegally denied the vote. A year later, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

After years of working to make a change for people of color, Mrs. Hamer -- born October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi, she was the granddaughter of a slave and the youngest of 20 children -- died penniless in Ruleville, Miss. where friends paid for the funeral.
* * * * *

Hamer was a frequent target of the Sovereignty Commission. Here are several of the hundreds of files still available today in the state's digital archives, where her name is listed in the following versions:

In this file, Mrs. Hamer's campaign fundraising is tied to the Communist Party of the U.S.A.

Here, she is listed on the SNCC Staff Directory.

Here, the Sovereignty Commission sends spies to a federal courthouse hearing in Oxford, where Mrs. Hamer filed an injunction against city officials to prevent an election of taking place.

Mrs. Hamer leads a boycott against schools and white businesses. AP story.

Photos of the Mississippi Freedom Delegation to Washington, D.C. (sans Mrs. Hamer, but she was there!)

Mrs. Hamer tops a list of "five people colored people Mississippians vow they will kill in the register-to-vote battle."

A friend, Jane Stembridge, writes
a poem and letter of support for Mrs. Hamer.

This is only a small sample of the many files you will find on Mrs. Hamer by doing a search at the MDAH Digital Collections of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. Remember, these files are not indexed digitally. Names are spelled in many versions and often records are not fully indexed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

ACORN Misrepresented? No Change From the 70's -- Groups Trying to Help Miss. Blacks Spied On By Mississippi Sovereignty Commission

BY THE END of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, well over a dozen years after Brown v. the Board of Education followed by the murders of Rev. George Lee, Lamar Smith and then Emmett Till, violence was accelerating in Mississippi. More black people were being killed or turning up “missing” than had been in recent years.

Attempts to destroy organizations trying to stop the violence increased, too. Black Panthers, just coming into the Delta, and small volunteer groups, sometimes church run, were trying to help Mississippi’s blacks either change their conditions or flee the state.

Both the Panthers and the Box Project, the later aiding sharecroppers to physically escape plantations, were perceived much like ACORN in 2009 – their efforts at community organization and related activities often misunderstood or misrepresented.

Fear of northern events such as Watts’s burning in 1965 translated to attempts at halting the Panthers, who in 1969 were quietly trying to organize college students at Delta State University in Cleveland, 17miles southwest of Drew.

Isaac Henderson Shorter of Cleveland returned home from Detroit where he had led demonstrations, hoping to galvanize Delta State students through the Black Panther organization. The Sovereignty Commission was right on it – spying on Shorter, a Delta State student, and others who had “returned from Berkeley with a stack of Black Panther newspapers.”

For an agency two years away from winding down, the returning organizers brought new life to the Commission’s investigations; current archives show 25 files on Shorter, alone.

Here a some links to several of Shorter's files. Of course, you will find more records by visiting the digital archives hidden away at

Trip out to Berkeley for Black Panther Materials

Draft board information, classifications, on Shorter and others shared with Sovereignty Commission

Friday, August 28, 2009

What's in a name? Check out these --

The Tallahatchie County Courthouse, site of the trial of Emmett Till's killers, seen from across the Cassidy Bayou. Photo by Susan Klopfer

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson has officially requested that the U.S. attorney general to investigate an incident in which residents of Sumner conducted a search for a burglary suspect.

The Jackson,Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports --

The suspect, William Pittman, was charged Aug. 20 with breaking and entering a home in Sumner. He was released on bond the same day.

There's no indication Pittman was injured.

The FBI has also said it’s looking into the incident.

"I have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the vigilante type activities that occurred in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, last Thursday," Thompson announced today in a news release.

“Unauthorized people with guns, terrorizing citizens of this area has no place in civilized society.

“The fact that this community still (bears) the stains of racial tensions and is the area that Emmett Till was murdered weighs heavy on the conscience and fears of this community.”
+ + +

Well, well. What an interesting time for this to take place -- in the week coming up on the anniversary of young Till's kidnapping and lynching. It hasn't been that long ago, and it's certainly fascinating to search out some names (not yet mentioned as involved by news organizations) in the Sovereignty Commission files. Here's a few Who's Who searches to get started ...

By the way, here's the latest url for the archives digital collections,

If any of this sticks, here are several names that might pop out (relatives of a possible main player)

U.S.Rep. Jamie Whitten

John W. Whitten, Jr.

And a nice picture of John Jr. at the Emmett Till trial --

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Story of Neda has shades of Emmett Till and Jo Etha Collier, all civil rights martyrs

No funeral was allowed for Neda, the young woman shot by Iran's security forces. At the cemetery, security forces used tear gas to clear the area of demonstrators and mourners, according to CNN reports. A witness said riot police and Basij militia were at the scene, but the confrontations with people in the crowd involved Iran's militia.

In this Youtube Video, Neda's financee tells the harrowing story of the woman's death. She was hot and tired and got out of the car to get some rest. She was not in an areas where theyre had been any clashes, he says.

She was killed by the forces of Basij and the killer was seen by witnesses. "If that person was a police member, according to the laws of our country, he would have been wearing a uniform, and he was not."

No funeral was allowed because the government knew who shot her, her finance continues. "This is why they would not allow any funeral or services for her."

Links: Caspian Makan Neda Basij iran elections tehran elections mousavi ahmadinejad fiance iranian woman, iran elections tehran elections mousavi ahmadinejad fiance iranian woman, Caspian Makan Neda Basij iran elections tehran elections mousavi ahmadinejad fiance iranian woman


This week, I've begun blogging the stories of Emmett Till and five other Mississippi civil rights martyrs. The blog book is free and available at and so please come by, read and comment.

Included are accounts of Cleve McDowell, Jo Etha Collier, Adlena Hamlett, Birdia Keglar and Joe Pullen. All have sovereignty commission files.

You are invited to leave your comments at the Till book blog to become part of the blog book.

It is sad and fascinating that two young people, Emmett Till and, years later, Jo Etha Collier were killed in the civil rights movement; both events becoming key to the movement. Like Neda, their names will be remembered.


Sovereignty Commission Searches:

Cleve McDowell attempts to quell violence after Jo Etha Collier is murdered|75|0|23|1|1|1|5513|

Bertha Mae Carter and McDowell lead march after Collier killed|20|2|82|4|1|1|58889|

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MBURN: Mississippi Patrolman Dies

Casket holding the deceased mother of James Chaney, one of three civil rights workers murdered in Meridian, Mississippi in the summer of 1964. The FBI file's name for the case is MBURN. (photo, Susan Klopfer)

Harry J. Wiggs,73, of Philadelphia,Mississippi died Thursday, July 23, 2009, at Neshoba County General Hospital. He was born and reared in Decatur, and had made his home in Philadelphia since 1963. He retired from the Mississippi Highway Patrol in 1990.

Wiggs was one of the two Mississippi Highway Patrol officers reported by some sources as having been involved in the conspiracy to murder civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerne, The Meridian Star reported.

"These sources have concluded that although the two highway patrol officers abandoned the plot shortly before the murders, they did nothing to stop them," the Star's reporter stated.

General Link to archives

Wiggs/ Mississippi Sovereignty Commission

Link 1
Link 2

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Book Signing on Dr. T. R. M. Howard; author, Linda Royster Beito

Linda Royster Beito will appear for an author book signing and talk on the life of Mound Bayou's Dr. T.R.M. Howard: Mentor of Medgar Ever and Fannie Lou Hamer. David Beito is the book's co-author.

Time and Location: Friday, July 10, 6:00 p.m., Kemetic Institute, Mound Bayou, Historic Hwy 61, Across from the John F. Kennedy Memorial High School. For more information, call 205-292-2902.

For more photos on Howard's life, see here:

* * *

The Sovereignty Commission kept plenty of files on Dr. Howard.

Check out


Here's one to start --police arrest Dr. Howard

Location: Book Signing in Mound Bayou (July 10, 2009)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Good Ol' White Citizens Councils Still Operating in Mississippi (and Elsewhere)

Mississippi Senator Belongs to Uptown Klan (White Citizens Councils, Now Called Council of Conservative Citizens -- Same Folks, Same Message)

Last weekend, Sen. Lydia Chassaniol (R-Winona) was the keynote speaker at the annual convention of the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization that has been classified as a white separatist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and described as having “a thinly-veiled white supremacist agenda” by The New York Times. On the CCC web site, you can buy a “white pride” T-shirt; their platform praises America’s “European” heritage and condemns “mixture of the races”; a previous incarnation of their web site described African Americans as “a retrograde species of humanity”; and so forth. The organization’s agenda is fairly transparent.

Sen. Chassaniol has refused to disavow the organization, praising it as a group of “lone wolves crying in the wilderness” during her keynote and stating that its presence “gives [her] hope.” When she was later asked about her membership in the group, she replied that “a person’s membership in any organization is a private matter.”

Why should we care?

More Reading

Link to Mississippi Council of Conservative Citizens

Trent Lott was a member ..

And of course, Mississippi's Governor, soon to be Republican Presidential Hopeful, Haley Barbour, hangs with this group, too ..

From Sovereignty Commission Files ...

Search on Robert "Tut" Patterson, and Robert Patterson, founder of this group, from Indianola.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Civil Rights Lawyer William Kunstler Liked to Shake Up Mississippi

Attorney Kunstler, Wickipedia

Daughters of the late civil rights attorney, William Kunstler, Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, have recently completed a documentary about their father entitled William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe which will have its world premiere screening as part of the Documentary Competition of the upcoming 2009 Sundance Film Festival in January.

Mississippi's Sovereignty Commission had great interest in Kunstler, who fought for civil righs with Dr. King., and judging by the hundreds of files still available to peruse, the civil rights lawyer loved stirring it up Mississippi. Here are several:

Kunstler name makes it on Senator Eastland's "index of names"

Kunstler helped Fannie Lou Hamer open voting rights in Sunflower County

Lawyer for Freedom Democrats -- editorial written by the Sovereignty Commission for the Jackson Daily News

A Kunstler "spotting" by Sovereignty Commission spy Tom Scarbrough is reported to the Jackson office

Kunstler defends a Freedom Rider in Biloxi

Sending a "Peace Corps of lawyers" into Mississippi

Warning to the governor -- "Expect Anything" -- People's Coalition For Peace and Justice Coming to Jackson

Report Biased Judge Harold Cox in Kunstler case before Federal Court

Transcript -- State of Mississippi vs. Henry J. Thomas

Be sure to check all versions of Kunstler's name -- i.e. "Kuntsler" in the files

"Kuntsler" and the RNA

Friday, January 16, 2009

Remembering Martin Luther King -- in Mississippi

by Susan Klopfer

Mississippi was one of the most potentially deadly spots for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to appear during the civil rights years, yet he often did so – and not without tremendous personal risk.

Tougaloo College sociology professor, Hunter Bear, (Hunter Gray/Dr. John R Salter, Jr.) left his teaching job, was accused of being a Communist, and almost his life in the mid 1960s for his civil rights activities; he confirms the pressure put on King whenver he came into Mississippi.

Hunter Bear remembers telephoning King and asking him to come to Jackson in June of 1963 shortly after Medgar Evers was killed in front of his home. The state’s well-known NAACP leader’s wife and children were waiting for him to leave his car and come inside the house, after a late night planning meeting at his church.

Some MLK links in Sovereignty Commission files

Communist/Highlander Folk School

Charges of Communism in Laurel

Investigating King Meetings in the Delta

“The rapidly growing protest demonstrations were being bloodily suppressed and I asked him to come to Jackson for Medgar's funeral on June 15. He readily agreed to do so. We picked him up and several key staff of his – Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Walker and others – at the police-drenched Jackson airport.

“It was already very hot and the temperature was to go, that day, to 102 super-humid degrees. Martin King and Dr Abernathy rode in my car – along with Bill Kunstler – and the others were brought by Ed King (a Mississippi civil rights activist and Tougaloo chaplain, not related to Martin Luther King).

The retired sociologist remembers King’s calmness in the face of “..a very grudging police escort from the city's all-White police department. The Jackson setting could not have been more lethally dangerous for all of us – but Dr. King visited easily and casually with me, and I with him, as we traveled the very dangerous several miles to the Negro Masonic Temple on Lynch Street.”
Salter"s", Evers and Threats

Tougalou Informant

Salter Under FBI Surveillance

Evers’ funeral was huge – “several thousand people, inside and out” – and afterwards, “…six thousand of us marched the two miles or so from the Temple to the Collins Funeral Home on Farish Street. It was the first "legal" civil rights demonstration in Mississippi's hate-filled, sanguinary history.”

King came into Mississippi early on and was there during some of the state's most critical times. In 1966, a state chapter of the Deacons of Defense, a black group concerned with protection of the lives of African Americans, worried for King’s safety and provided him with armed security during events in Jackson and McComb, and for the James Meredith March held that summer.

More King Links

Spying ...

List of Civil Rights Disorders in Mississippi (probably SNCC or COFO)

It was a good call by the Deacons, since Meredith was shot June 6 near Hernando, a day before the primary election, while walking from Memphis to Jackson to encourage black people to register and vote.

Meredith, four years earlier the first black student to enroll and attend the University of Mississippi, undertook his 220-mile March Against Fear to challenge white supremacy and inspire black Mississippians to vote. This was an unusual move for Meredith, who was home from his first year at Columbia University’s law school; he rarely involved himself publicly in civil rights demonstrations.

After Meredith was wounded, and taken to a Memphis hospital, King and other civil rights leaders continued the protest. The march moved on southward through the Delta to Belzoni, where Rev. George Lee had been violently killed by a shotgun blast to his face eleven years earlier, and on through several other small cotton towns.

Then King split off and left for Philadelphia to hold a service on the anniversary of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner; King and others were attacked with clubs while police and Justice Department observers and FBI agents looked on, reported civil rights marchers who were also beaten.
Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner


Meanwhile in Canton, a small town north of Jackson, officials refused to allow marchers to pitch tents on the town's black school ground. The crowd numbered about 3,500 people and was faced off by sixty-one state troopers lined up in full battle gear, carrying a mass of weapons. The troopers fired tear gas into the crowd and then waded in with guns and nightsticks.

One journalist on the scene observed, "They came stomping in behind the gas, gun-butting and kicking the men, women, and children."

"This is the very state patrol that President Johnson said today would protect us. Anyone who will use gas bombs on women and children can't and won't protect anybody," Rev. King told reporters.

The riot in Canton would equal in violence and bloodshed the assault on Selma, Alabama marchers one year earlier. After Selma President Lyndon Johnson had federalized the National Guard to protect the demonstrators marching to Montgomery, but his administration's response to Canton was different. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach explained to reporters he “regretted” the use of tear gas against the marchers, for “it always makes the situation more difficult.”

But Katzenbach refused to condemn the police action and asserted the whole matter was under investigation.

Meredith’s March ended quietly as Dr. King rejoined marchers and led a group to Tougaloo College, where 9,000 supporters attended a mass rally. On Sunday, June 26, the march came to close at the capital grounds in Jackson as nearly 15,000 people drew together to hear the civil rights leader declare the march and rally to go down in history "as the greatest demonstration for freedom ever held in the state of Mississippi."

Just four days after the Meredith incident, Klansmen had tried to lure King back into Mississippi by kidnapping and murdering a black farmer. Members of an Adams County White Knights cell known as the Cottonmouth Moccasin gang murdered Ben Chester White, described by Mississippi journalist Jerry Mitchell as "a quiet man with a shiny gold tooth, a humble man who could hardly read but could still quote long passages from the Bible."

White was neither a civil rights worker nor was he registered to vote.

Believing they could lure Rev. King to Natchez, the cell members on June 10 shot White who had worked most of his life as a caretaker on a Natchez plantation and had no involvement in civil rights work. (FBI agents arrested Ernest Fuller, Ernest Avants and James Jones four days later. FBI documents indicated that O'Dell Adams, the Adams Sheriff who led the local investigation of the White murder, was also a Klansmen.)

Mississippi could not let go of its hate and harassment of the civil rights leader. And its unique State Sovereignty Commission, opened in 1956 in reaction to federal enforcement of the US Supreme Court ruling on integrating schools, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the murder of Emmett Till (1955), often used former FBI agents to spy on and harass Dr. King.

After the Sovereignty Commission was shut down, state lawmakers ordered the files sealed until 2027 (50 years later). In 1989, a federal judge ordered the records opened, with some exceptions for still-living people but legal challenges delayed the records' availability to the public until March 1998.

Still more records were released in 2002. It would turn out that over twenty years the agency amassed files on 87,000 people making it the largest state-level spying effort in the nation's history, though some other states had lesser efforts of the same sort.

Hundreds of files on King alone confirm the state’s dedication to spying on and harassing him. Perhaps the most damaging Sovereignty Commission files will never see the light of day; records that were either destroyed, hidden, moved to other state offices or simply never released. But here is one small example of Sovereignty Commission confirming the early-on targeting of King:

Back on September 18, 1959, former FBI agent Zack J. Van Landingham, a Sovereignty Commission investigator, officially reported that A. J. Simmons, a white Citizens Councils administrator, had contacted him about an upcoming Southern Christian Ministers Conference of Mississippi that included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. along with other speakers from around the country.

Simmons wanted "these speakers coming here from out of the state ... harassed as much as possible” and specifically wanted Dr. King "arrested by the police, taken down, fingerprinted and photographed ... [and] had already conferred with Chief of Detectives Pierce about such procedures."

Van Landingham reported he spoke with Sam Ivy, director of the Bureau of Identification and that "Arrangements were made whereby we could use the recording instrument of the Mississippi Highway Patrol.... I will take some steps to see what pressure can be brought to bear on any of [the speakers] and possibly get the meeting cancelled."

Mississippi government was not alone in their targeting of King who also was a major focus of the FBI’s COINTELPRO secret operation that also targeted the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, a group led by activists Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron Henry that ultimately questioned the seating of Mississippi’s all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1964.

Ironically, most of the Sovereignty Commission’s agents had ties to the FBI as well as other intelligence agencies, and as records show, maintained those relationships when going to work for Mississippi. Clearly they were in good position to help out the federal government in its continued, vicious attack on Rev. Martin Luther King.

MLK "I Have a Dream"


Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler have recently completed a documentary about their father entitled William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe which will have its world premiere screening as part of the Documentary Competition of the upcoming 2009 Sundance Film Festival in January.

The Sovereignty Commission had great interest in Kunstler, who fought for civil righs with Dr. King., hundreds of files are still available to peruse. Here are several:

Senator Eastland's "index of names"

Kunstler helped Fannie Lou Hamer open voting rights in Sunflower County

Lawyer for Freedom Democrats -- editorial written by the Sovereignty Commission for the Jackson Daily News