From Civil Rights to COVID-19: ‘Without Truth, You Don’t Have Justice’

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tags: racism, civil rights, Jim Crow, lynching


Mitchell’s primary focus has been uncovering the truth of Civil Rights Era acts of terror. As a courthouse reporter in Mississippi, he was inspired to dig into the three civil rights workers’ case after viewing the inaccurate version portrayed in the movie Mississippi Burning. It turned out that there were Ku Klux Klan members still living who had perpetrated it and remained unconvicted. Likewise in the case of the murder of Medgar Evers. Mitchell found new evidence in the Evers murder case, uncovered old evidence (like the murder weapon) and was largely responsible for getting the killer tried and convicted. Justice was delayed, but it finally arrived: The murderer who ambushed and shot Evers in the back, in his home’s driveway in 1963, wasn’t found guilty until the 1990s. But Mitchell’s reporting made a big difference.

Through his work, Mitchell uncovered a closely held secret: that the state of Mississippi had a spy agency called the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, sponsored by the governor. The commission didn’t just assert state rights dogma, but also collected information on civil rights workers and intimidated, in the Evers case, jurors in earlier trials of his killer, Byron De La Beckwith. In other words, while the state prosecuted the alleged assassin on the one hand, it was busy undermining its own prosecutors’ case with the other. The state had sealed the records, but Mitchell eventually got a copy from a source. Being able to provide evidence of jury tampering was helpful to lawyers in securing a retrial and Beckwith’s eventual conviction.

Beckwith was an unapologetic racist, a self-identified member of the Christian Identity movement and believer in the creeds of the Aryan Nations and men like Idaho’s Richard Butler, whose organization has spawned the violent Nazi group, The Order. Mitchell once called Butler on the phone to get a handle on his particular thread of racist ideology.

Hearing Butler and Beckwith discuss their racist worldviews, it became clear to Mitchell that there’s a direct ideological pipeline extending from the KKK and the Birmingham church bombers to the Dylann Roofs and other white domestic terrorists of today. Roof, who killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, was partly inspired by the Northwest Front, which was led by the late Bremerton-based Nazi Harold Covington. (Covington sought to create an all-white state in the Northwest.)


Read entire article at Crosscut

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