50 Years Ago Today: The Lynching of Three Civil Rights Workers in Mississippi

[The murder of three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi, 50 years ago today, who had devoted their summer, and whose lives were stolen in the dangerous work of dismantling, “overcoming”, the horrifying system of white supremacy, challenged many of us to join this struggle and to devote our lives to ending white supremacy — and, as we learned and as we grew, to overthrow the racist, capitalist, and imperialist system and all its horrors.  Many of our generation mark this day, June 21, 1964, as the point from which our struggle to end this rotten system “WILL NEVER TURN BACK!” — Frontlines ed.]

The 1964 murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman

Prof. Akinyele Umoja Discusses “We Will Shoot Back”

March 27.2013

Professor Akinyele Umoja, chair, African American Studies at Georgia State University discusses his new book: We Will Shoot Back: Armed Self-defense in the Mississippi Freedom Movement. This program was sponsored by the Stone Center and the Bull’s Head Bookstore of UNC at Chapel Hill.
This is part of the presentation Professor Umoja made at Chapel Hill,  length: 30:38

We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement

 Prof. Umoja discusses why he wrote We Will Shoot Back

The notion that the civil rights movement in the southern United States was a nonviolent movement remains a dominant theme of civil rights memory and representation in popular culture. Yet in dozens of southern communities, Black people picked up arms to defend their leaders, communities, and lives. In particular, Black people relied on armed self-defense in communities where federal government officials failed to safeguard activists and supporters from the violence of racists and segregationists, who were often supported by local law enforcement.

In We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, Akinyele Omowale Umoja argues that armed resistance was critical to the efficacy of the southern freedom struggle and the dismantling of segregation and Black disenfranchisement. Intimidation and fear were central to the system of oppression in Mississippi and most of the Deep South. To overcome the system of segregation, Black people had to overcome fear to present a significant challenge to White domination. Armed self-defense was a major tool of survival in allowing some Black southern communities to maintain their integrity and existence in the face of White supremacist terror. By 1965, armed resistance, particularly self-defense, was a significant factor in the challenge of the descendants of enslaved Africans to overturning fear and intimidation and developing different political and social relationships between Black and White Mississippians.

This riveting historical narrative relies upon oral history, archival material, and scholarly literature to reconstruct the use of armed resistance by Black activists and supporters in Mississippi to challenge racist terrorism, segregation, and fight for human rights and political empowerment from the early 1950s through the late 1970s. Continue reading

45 years later, former Alabama state trooper pleads guilty to killing Black civil rights worker Jimmie Lee Jackson

[This a compelling interview with the reporter who broke this story in 2004 as part of his work in the Civil Rights Cold Case Project. It also includes comments by Congress member John Lewis. They underline Lewis’ backward role in the civil rights movement, feeding illusions about Dixiecrat Lyndon Johnson at the very time that President Johnson was escalating the War in Vietnam.  Lewis’ mantra is that Black politicians in the Democratic Party, now led by Barack Obama, are “continuing the legacy” of that movement.–Frontlines ed]


State trooper Fowler superimposed on picture of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

Democracy Now, November 18, 2010

AMY GOODMAN: A white former Alabama state trooper has pleaded guilty to killing a black civil rights worker 45 years ago at the height of the civil rights movement. Seventy-seven-year-old James Bonard Fowler pled guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter two weeks before he was set to go to trial. He had been charged with two counts of murder in the 1965 shooting of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson during a melee in a restaurant in Marion, Alabama. Fowler was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of unsupervised probation.

Jackson’s killing was a cornerstone in the civil rights movement. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at his funeral. His death set off the first Selma-to-Montgomery march that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” when Alabama police attacked demonstrators crossing a bridge, an event many say helped lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Monday’s plea agreement brought an end to a case that’s been 45 years in the making. In the 1960s, two grand juries investigated Jimmie Lee Jackson’s killing but chose to not pursue charges. Then in 2004, Fowler admitted to a reporter for the Anniston Star that he pulled the trigger that killed Jackson. He claimed he shot the unarmed Jackson in self-defense. It was the first time Jackson’s shooter was publicly identified. The revelation helped lead prosecutors to bring charges against Fowler. Continue reading