Mitchell
February 15, 2010 5:43 PM   Subscribe

"I couldn't let these Klansmen get away with murder..." Investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell has started a blog focusing on cold case murders of civil rights workers. In this Moth Podcast, Mitchell discusses some of his investigations, the death threats he received, and the stunning redemption and forgiveness he witnessed. For his work Mitchell was recently awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant.

As a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell's investigations have helped solve four different cold cases: the murder of Medgar Evers (this investigation was the basis of the film "Ghosts of Mississippi"); the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers outside of Philadelphia, MS (the basis of the film "Mississippi Burning"); the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (Spike Lee's film "Four Little Girls"); and the murder of a local NAACP leader in Hattiesburg, MS.

Mitchell's initial investigation into the "Mississippi Burning" case helped bring Edgar Ray Killen, the orchestrator of the murders, to justice. The documentary "NESHOBA" highlights this series of events (and includes chilling interviews with Killen). Mitchell's recent blog posts have also focused on this case. Mitchell has identified four men, still living, who were likely involved with the murders.

The murders were carried out by a combination of law enforcement agents, the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. The Sovereignty Commission was essentially a secret, tax-payer funded, terrorist organization run by the state of Mississippi. In 1998, the state released the Sovereignty Commission files (online here). Last fall, the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally at the University of Mississippi in support of the students' right to chant "The South will rise again" during football games (previously).
posted by bguest (18 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
This guy is so much like a superhero I wouldn't be surprised if he could fly.

For those who are interested, there were some really haunting photographs of the Evers family and other civil rights figures (taken during the '60s-'70s and today) in the New Yorker recently.
posted by sallybrown at 6:00 PM on February 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just listened to his story on the Moth podcast. Nice writeup!
posted by starman at 6:04 PM on February 15, 2010


What a great post. Nice work bguest.
posted by nola at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2010


Reading that bit about Killen, man, I want to take a road trip to Mississippi just to spit on that motherfucker.
posted by notsnot at 6:39 PM on February 15, 2010


I too recently listened to the podcasts. My heart was in my mouth when he started talking about the death threats and his wife's anxiety. I was expecting the worst.
posted by tellurian at 6:59 PM on February 15, 2010


Not that all of the Moth shows aren't fantastic, but this one is really fucking fantastic. Thanks. Great post.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:00 PM on February 15, 2010


Thank you for this post.
posted by nestor_makhno at 7:04 PM on February 15, 2010


Great post. I have gotten into the Moth podcast very recently, and am just obsessed with it. This particular story was striking, and the additional background and digging deeper is good information. These stories need to be told more often, to more people, on as many platforms as possible.
posted by bunnycup at 7:07 PM on February 15, 2010


Yeah fuck that Edgar Ray Killen guy. This is the first time I've ever heard my own last name in a celebrity's name and of course it has to be for all the wrong reasons .......
posted by mannequito at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2010


also: My reaction to the MacArthur winners is often, 'eh,' or even, wut? But this guy might be one of the most deserving winners.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice post, thanks....
posted by HuronBob at 7:14 PM on February 15, 2010


This guy is so much like a superhero I wouldn't be surprised if he could fly.
Superman versus the Klan.

Life imitates art.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:31 PM on February 15, 2010


Yes, indeed, thank you for this post. Very informative. Brought the song "Only A Pawn In Their Game" by Bob Dylan to mind:

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.


I wish I could be even half as courageous and useful in my life as Jerry Mitchell.
posted by apis mellifera at 9:17 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is great and inspiring stuff. I hope one day they find out who killed real journalism.
posted by mecran01 at 10:22 PM on February 15, 2010


I loved this when I heard it last week, I love it now as well.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:15 AM on February 16, 2010


jenkinsEar: There was a great segment on This American Life about how the Superman radio show was used against the Klan.
posted by exhilaration at 9:49 AM on February 16, 2010


truly amazing stuff. absolutely amazing. excellent post.
posted by marienbad at 10:05 AM on February 16, 2010


The Sovereignty Commission was essentially a secret, tax-payer funded, terrorist organization run by the state of Mississippi.

The things they don't teach you in school, indeed. An organization that was only shut down in 1977 and fought court-mandated records release until 1998?

That kind of information should be more widely known and good on Mitchell for keeping after "old history." Anything stirring up death threats is clearly not old history.
posted by librarylis at 11:15 AM on February 16, 2010


« Older Some guys in a Minneapolis basement, 1984....  |  The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments