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Today in the American South, scores of civil rights murders remain unsolved, uninvestigated, unprosecuted, and untold. Reporters from The Civil Rights Cold Case Project have reopened many of these "cold cases," investigating old leads, interviewing witnesses and family members, and turning up new evidence that prosecutors have used to build criminal cases against killers and conspirators who have walked free for more than 40 years. To date, every civil rights murder case that has been reopened and successfully prosecuted was the direct result of an investigation initiated by a journalist. Here are five sample cases from the Project.
In July 1964 the bodies of two black men were found in a Mississippi river. The FBI found ties to the KKK. Forty-one years later, the brother of one of the victims, Thomas Moore, and filmmaker David Ridgen went back to investigate—and solve the crimes.
Frank Morris was asleep in the back bedroom of his shoe repair shop when the sound of breaking glass woke him. He saw a white man pouring gasoline around the shop. Another was pointing a single barrel shotgun at him.
Clifton Walker was driving home from the late shift at a paper plant when he took a shortcut he’d been warned against. Three hundred yards after turning onto Poor House Road, his car was brought to a halt and surrounded by armed men.
Days after he published a story about an arson-murder of a black shopkeeper in Louisiana, newspaper editor Stanley Nelson got a memorable call. The caller was Leland Boyd, son of the renowned Ku Klux Klan leader Earcel Boyd Sr., and he had information to share.
Wharlest Jackson, an active NAACP member, was offered a promotion at the Armstrong Tire & Rubber plant in Natchez, Mississippi. Jackson had won it over two white co- workers. His wife begged him not to take it out of fear of retaliation.