Anguilla, MS. 12/3/2015. On April 12, 1970, Rainey Pool, a 54-year-old sharecropper from the town of Midnight in Humphries County, was killed by a group of white men. The group of men assaulted Pool, rendering him unconscious, and loaded him in a pick-up truck. The men then threw Pool off a bridge into the Sunflower River at this location. One of the perpetrators claimed Pool, who had one arm, was trying to take something from his truck. Police found Pool’s body two days later.
In 1970, police detained four suspects, one of whom confessed. Indictments followed, but on the request of the prosecutor, in July 1970 the state circuit court granted a nolle proseque (a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor).
After twenty-eight years, in 1999 at the request of Pool’s family the case was revived. Seven white men were thought to be responsible for Pool’s death. Two were dead by the time of the fresh investigation. Dennis Newton was acquitted by a jury and, Joe Oliver Watson pled to manslaughter and agreed to testify against the remaining men. In November 1999 James “Doc” Caston, 66, his brother Charles Ernie Caston, 64, and his half-brother Hal Spivey Crimm 50, were convicted of manslaughter by a state jury and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.
Weeks after the verdict, local newspaper investigations discovered an FBI report from April 15, 1970. It stated that James Caston had informed an FBI agent that he was a member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. There had been rumors that all of the defendants in the Pool case were Klan members, however none of this was ever presented in court. James Caston’s ex-wife Donna Mae confirmed that her husband was in fact a member of the KKK and said that he kept a membership certificate in his rifle case to prove it.
2 / 22
Jackson, MS. 12/3/2015. On the morning of June 12, 1963, civil rights activist, Medgar Evers pulled into his driveway after a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go,” Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from a 1917 .30-06 caliber Enfield rifle. Mr. Evers staggered 30 feet before collapsing. He was taken to a local hospital in Jackson, where he was initially refused admission due to his race, until it was explained who he was… he died in the hospital 50 minutes later. Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder in 1994.
3 / 22
Jackson, MS. 12/3/2015. On the morning of June 12, 1963, civil rights activist, Medgar Evers pulled into his driveway after a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go,” Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from this 1917 .30-06 caliber Enfield rifle. Mr. Evers staggered 30 feet before collapsing. He was taken to a local hospital in Jackson, where he was initially refused admission due to his race, until it was explained who he was… he died in the hospital 50 minutes later. Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder in 1994.
4 / 22
Homochitto National Forest, MS. 12/4/2015. On May 2nd, 1964, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Dee, both 19 and from Franklin County, Mississippi, were picked up by several KKK members while hitchhiking in Meadville, MS. According to testimony given by Charles Edwards, who participated in the abduction and beatings, it was he that identified Dee as a target because he “fit the profile of a Black Panther” as Dee was known to “wear a black bandana on his head all the time” (neither Moore or Dee had any involvement in civil rights activism).
Moore and Dee where taken to an area near here, deep inside Homochitto National Forest in MS. The two where interrogated, beaten with “whip-like bean poles” and tree limbs until, gashed and bloodied. Some Klansmen left the scene, while the remaining Klansmen locked Moore and Dee into the trunk of the car and drove across to the Louisiana side of the Mississippi river. The Klansmen tied Henry Dee to a jeep engine block, took him by boat into the river, and, while Moore watched from shore, tossed him overboard to drown. They then tied Charles Moore to a railroad tie and iron weights. They took him by boat into the river and threw him overboard as well. Both men were still alive when they were thrown into the Mississippi River.
5 / 22
Homochitto National Forest, MS. 12/4/2015. The carcass of a discarded poached deer, where on July 10, 1966, the body of Ben Chester White, a 67-year old caretaker at a local farm was disposed of. After buying Mr. White a soda and offering him $2 to help them find a missing dog, three members of the Cottonmouth Moccasin Gang, a Klan fraction of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan took him into Homochitto National Forest and forced him out of the car. He was shot at least 18 times and his body was dumped in Petty Creek off this bridge.
Some speculated the Mr. White was killed in an effort to divert attention away from an upcoming civil rights march. Others say the Klan wanted to lure Martin Luther King, Jr. to Natchez, MS for an assassination attempt.
6 / 22
Neshoba County, MS. 12/3/2015. On June 24, 1964 the burned shell of a Ford station wagon used by three missing civil rights workers - Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner was found 80-feet into this portion of woods once used as a logging track.
The three missing bodies were discovered on August 4, 1964 buried in an earthen dam on a farm six miles southwest of Philadelphia, Mississippi. More than 200 agents were involved in the investigation.
On June 21, 2005, the forty-first anniversary of the three murders, 80-year old Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist minister was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
7 / 22
Mobile, AL. 12/6/2015. On March 21, 1981. After the declaration of a mistrial regarding an African American being charged with the murder of a white policeman in Mobile, Alabama, Bennie Jack Hays, the second-highest-ranking officer in the United Klans of America said “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man.”
Armed with a gun and rope, Bennie Hays’s 26-year old son Henry Hays and 17-year old LIewellyn Knowles drove around Mobile looking for black to attack. At random, they spotted Michael Donald walking home after buying his sister a pack of cigarettes. The two men kidnapped Donald and drove to another county where they beat Donald with a tree limb. They then tightened a noose around his neck, before slitting his throat and hanging him from this tree across the street from a house owned by Klan leader Bennie Jack Hays.
Henry Hays was sentenced to death by the electric chair on June 6, 1997. Hays is the only known member of the Ku Klux Klan to be executed during the 20th century for the murder of an African American.
8 / 22
Marshall County, MS. 12/2/2015. According to the great-grandson of the former property owner, a black man was tied to this railing of a wooden bridge in the 1960's and whipped by several members of the local Klan. He was accused of repeatedly stealing watermelons from the property adjacent to their family’s cotton farm. Not long after, that same man was accused of assaulting a local white woman. The black offender was taken back to the bridge where he was whipped again, and then to a large oak tree, dubbed "the hanging tree," a minute’s walk down the road where he was subsequently lynched for his offenses… the lynching was unreported.
In the late 1990's the great-grandson attempted to till the soil around “the hanging tree" in an effort to plant a flowerbed. The till broke and he temporarily abandoned the project. A few months later, during December of the year 1997 the tree was struck twice by lighting during a winter lighting storm. The large oak burned for two days and his neighbor (a late former slave who lived to be over 100-years old and who was familiar with the lynching) somewhat panic stricken, warned the grandson that he woke up some "bad medicine."
The bridge was truncated in 1977 after a new highway was constructed.
9 / 22
Woodville, MS. 12/4/2015. On February 28, 1964 while driving home from his late-shift at International Paper, Clifton Walker’s 1961 cream–colored Chevrolet Impala was brought to a stop three hundred yards after making a his usual shortcut turn onto an unpaved road outside of Woodville, MS around midnight. Ballistic evidence would later show that the gunmen gathered around Walker’s vehicle and fired inside at extremely close range, blowing Walker’s face apart with shotguns.
Two weeks prior to the murder, 200 members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan gathered in Brookhaven, MS and agreed to a 40-page constitution that included the “extermination” of blacks as a rational response to the growing civil rights threat.
In the mid-1960’s, the U.S. Un-American Activities Committee, investigated the Klan in Mississippi. Documents obtained from the National Archives found during a cold case inquiry stated that more than 40 of Walker’s co-workers were Klansmen. Highway Patrol documents mention eight possible suspects, but do not explore their motives. Instead, the state reports primarily focus on allegations of Walker’s infidelities.
The White Knights of the KKK are believed to have been responsible for at least 10 killings in Mississippi, including the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, but the killing of Clifton Walker remains in the Cold Case Files.
10 / 22
Two nooses draped over a Klan robe on display in Kennasaw, GA. The robe is from the "Fraternal Organization - New England Order of Protection."
11 / 22
Vidalia, LA. 12/5/2015. In 1964 Klansmen from Adams County, Mississippi and Catahoula Parish, Louisiana met in one of these rooms at the former Shamrock Hotel in Vidalia, Louisiana. The gathering included members of the UKA, White Knights and the Original Knights who were all frustrated by the “lack of guts” displayed by their respective Klans. One Klansman allegedly displayed a Silver Dollar minted on his birth year and proposed that such coins serve members of the new secret cell – The Silver Dollar Group. The men dubbed themselves the “toughest Klansmen in Mississippi or Louisiana” and pledged to inflict more violence than other groups. The Shamrock Hotel soon became a gathering place for the notorious Klan members.
Retired FBI agents confirm that the militant Silver Dollar Group was suspected in some of the most atrocious crimes in the mid-1960s in Adams County and Concordia Parish, including the murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris in December 1964. The small group of 20 or so Klansmen is also believed to be responsible for the murder of Wharlest Jackson in February 1967 and the attempted murder of George Metcalfe in August 1965.
12 / 22
Marshall County, MS. 12/2/2015. Before the construction of the Sardis Dam, this section of the Holly Springs National Forest was a mixture of dense forest and swamp. According to the great-grandchild of a former Klansman, somewhere between 1950 and 1960, the Klan had used the remote location to "whoop" blacks that got out of line,” and as was told to me - "to dump a nigger," which to his knowledge was never reported missing.
Some of the older locals referred to this area as "Nigger Bottom," because of the black man the Klan "threw down deep into the swamp."
I was taken to this old carriage trail where the Klan supposedly discarded the body not too far away.
13 / 22
Monroe, GA. 12/10/2015. The Moore’s Ford Bridge incident, widely described as the US’s last mass lynching, stands out as a particularly brutal case even in Georgia, where more lynching’s were recorded between 1877 and 1950 than in any other state, according to an EIJ (Equal Justice Initiative) report.
The victims of the lynching, who were African-American sharecroppers, were killed after Roger Malcom was bailed from Walton County Jail on charges of stabbing Barnette Hester, a 29-year-old white farmer. Hester was rumored locally to be having an affair with Roger’s wife, Dorothy.
The couples were seized by a crowd at Moore’s Ford Bridge while being driven home in a truck by Loy Harrison, a white farmer who had paid to bail Malcom out of jail on July 25, 1946. The women were tied to an oak tree beside their husbands and the mob fired three times at point blank range hitting their victims 60 times. The crowd then cut open the stomach of Dorothy Malcom, who was 7-months pregnant and removed the fetus.
Harrison, who escaped unharmed and said he was ambushed, has been accused by civil rights activists of being a Klan member and helping to set up the lynching. According to one witness, “a Confederate flag was flown at the crime scene next to a Walton County Sheriff’s car. This was to show people that this was a Ku Klux Klan killing and law enforcement was involved.” For years, no one in Walton County would talk with authorities about the case. When a 1946 grand jury failed to identify any suspects, the FBI pulled out of the active investigation.
In 2013, during an interview with the NAACP, Wayne Watson named seven men who he claimed to have heard speaking about their involvement in the murders. Watson alleged that all seven men, including his uncle were members of the Ku Klux Klan. The 69-year old case was reopened and is pending investigation by the FBI.
14 / 22
Natchez, MS. 12/4/2015. In August 1964, Grand Dragon E.L. McDaniel of the UKA (United Klans of America) established a Klavern in this building in Natchez, MS operating under the cover name Adams County Civic and Betterment Association.
Mr. McDaniel was the first Mississippi man recruited into the Louisiana-based Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1962. He helped form the Mississippi-based White Knights in 1964 and was elected to Grand Dragon of the UKA, the largest Klan organization in 1965.
15 / 22
Chattooga County, GA 12/12/2015. A Klansman displays a coin from his collection of Klan collectables. The coin was used to signify a member in good standing. This particular coin was said to be from 1923.
16 / 22
Lowndesboro, AL. 12/7/2015. On March 25, 1965, Viola Liuzzo and Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old local black activist, headed to Montgomery, Alabama to pick up the last group of demonstrators waiting to return to Selma. At 7:37pm, while stopped at a traffic light in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were spotted by four Klansmen, who were, according to the testimony from one of the Klansmen, had spent the day seeking an opportunity to kill Martin Luther King.
When they saw Liuzzo, who was white, driving a car with Michigan plates after dark with a black man in her passenger seat, they decided to attack them instead. The Klansmen hoped that this would send a clear message about white supremacy to northern whites, southern blacks, and like-minded liberals. Engaging Liuzzo in a high-speed chase on Highway 80, they pulled alongside her car about 20 miles outside of Selma and fired. Liuzzo was killed instantly and Moton, covered in her blood, escaped by pretending to be dead.
The discoloration on the lower portion of the memorial marker is the result of repeated vandalism – one time in particular, a large Confederate flag was painted across the face of the stone in 1997.
17 / 22
Montgomery County, AL. 12/7/2015. Truncated Alabama State Route 143 crossed the Alabama River on the Tyler-Goodwin Bridge (which was removed by 1985).
Just before midnight on January 23, 1957, four Klansmen forced Willie Edwards to jump to his death from the Tyler Goodwin Bridge in Montgomery County, Alabama. Mr. Edwards was returning from his first assignment as a deliveryman for a grocery store when he stopped for a soft drink. Four armed men approached the vehicle and forced Mr. Edward at gunpoint into their car. The men accused Mr. Edwards of “offending a white woman” as they drove to the bridge. After arriving at the bridge, the men ordered Mr. Edwards out the car and to “hit the water” or be shot. Mr. Edwards climbed the railing and fell 125 feet to his death. His decomposed body was found three months later by two fishermen.
Not until 1993, when Henry Alexander confessed to his wife on his deathbed that he and three other Klansmen were responsible for “the truck driver’s” death, did the truth of Mr. Edwards’ last moments come to light. Alexander told his wife, “That man never hurt anybody. I was just running my mouth. I caused it.” In 1997, the Alabama Department of Vital Statistics changed Mr. Edwards’s cause of death from “unknown” to “homicide.” A 1999 Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict any of the surviving suspects for the murder of Willie Edwards Jr.
18 / 22
Northport, AL. 12/6/2015. July 1961, the UKA (United Klans of America, Inc., Knights of the Ku Klux Klan) merged with the Alabama Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The merged organization established headquarters in Suite 401 of the Alston Building in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The organization was directed by Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton who had a 3-room suite on the 4th floor. At the time, the UKA was the dominant Klan group in the South with units in several southern states. In April 1966, Shelton moved the national office to the carport of his residence in Northport, Alabama, which he had converted into a room (left portion of house, white siding).
19 / 22
Jackson MS. 12/3/2015. Cross burned by the Ku Klux Klan at the home of Doris and G.T. Vaccarella Jr., on the night of August 12th, 1964.
20 / 22
Madison County, GA. 12/10/2015. On the night of July 11, 1964 three African-American World War II veterans returning home following training at Ft. Benning, Georgia were noticed in Athens, GA by local members of the Ku Klux Klan. The officers were followed to the nearby Broad River Bridge where their pursuers fired into the vehicle, killing Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn. When a local all white jury failed to convict the suspects of murder, the federal government successfully prosecuted the men for violations under the new Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed just nine days before Penn’s murder.
The case was instrumental in the creation of a Justice Department task force whose work culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
21 / 22
Birmingham, AL. 12/8/2105. A bronze figure from the “Four Spirits” statue in Kelly Ingram Park opposite the 16th Street Baptist Church.
The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was the third bombing in 11 days, after a federal court order had come down mandating the integration of Alabama’s school system.
At 10:22 a.m. on the morning of September 15, 1963, some 200 church members were in the building – many attending Sunday school classes before the start of the 11 am service–when the bomb detonated on the church’s east side. Most parishioners were able to evacuate the building, but the bodies of four young girls were found beneath the rubble in a basement restroom... more than 20 other people were injured in the blast.
Four Klan members planted the bomb, made of 15 sticks of dynamite, underneath the church front steps. The Klansmen were not charged until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was convicted of first-degree murder of victim Denise McNair. Thomas Edwin Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry were later convicted in 2001 and 2002 and sentenced to life in prison.
22 / 22
Mrs. Maxine McNair holding a photograph of her daughter Denise. Denise McNair was one of the 4 girls killed when the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed in 1963.
The locations of various murders carried out by the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era. Reading the captions are helpful for fully understanding the context of the images.