Civil Rights

Jackson State University receives grant from National Park Service

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi Clarion Ledger – 2022-08-25 15:30:16

Jackson State University will be receiving $650,000 to help preserve its oldest building and a key location from the Movement.

Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz, who oversees the National Park Service, appeared with university leaders Thursday to announce the grant, which will go towards projects at Ayers Hall and the COFO Civil Rights Education Center.

In this image taken from video on Monday, July 8, 2019, the Mississippi Writers Trail marker honoring novelist and poet Margaret Walker Alexander, stands in the foreground of Ayers Hall on the Jackson State University campus, after being unveiled in Jackson, Miss. Walker was an English professor from 1949 to 1979. Ayers Hall is the original academic building on the campus.

Estenoz said the National Park Service has been providing grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities since the 1990’s. JSU is one of the largest HBCU’s in the nation…

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James Meredith 60th anniversary events planned at University of Miss.

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi Clarion Ledger – 2022-08-23 14:13:09

Oct. 1 will mark 60 years since era icon James Meredith desegregated the University of Mississippi.

The anniversary will be marked by a number of events beginning in September and continuing through July of next year.

Meredith’s push to desegregate one of the most prominent segregated universities in America was a key moment of the Civil Rights Era and culminated in him being escorted onto campus in the Fall of 1962 by armed soldiers.

The night before, a riot on campus resulted in two deaths and hundreds of injuries. It required 30,000 troops to quell the mob and enroll the…

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‘The Movement Made Us’: Father and son reflect on past

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In ‘The Movement Made Us,’ father and son reflect on the past, both remembered and forgotten

David Dennis Jr. grew up with two versions of David Dennis Sr.: one, an activist at the very center of the movement who skirted countless times; the other, his father, the man whose approval and attention he desperately wanted. 

He remembers wondering as a child how his father “could fight for strangers while the people you said you loved the most fell apart,” he described in a letter written to his dad. 

David Dennis Sr. (left) and David Dennis Jr.

It was only through writing “The Movement Made Us: A Father, a Son, and the Legacy of a Freedom Ride” that Dennis Jr. was able to fully reconcile the two. 

“(Writing this book) really brought the two together and helped me understand how one informed the other, and how both created this complete person who led to me, and then to my kids, and all of that,” Dennis said in an interview with Mississippi Today.

“The Movement Made Us” is at once historical and intimately personal – the story is of a father and son, through whom the reader gets a glimpse into an entire lineage. It is also a deeply moving account of the civil rights movement in the South by a man who was in the eye of every storm: the Freedom Rides, Freedom Summer, the murder of Medgar Evers and the Harlem riot of 1964. 

The book begins with his father as a college student at Dillard University in New Orleans who was initially more interested in ensuring he got his degree and dating an attractive activist than protesting and being arrested. That changed at a meeting following attacks on Freedom Riders in Anniston and Birmingham who were traveling the South in protest of segregation on buses. The meeting was to discuss whether the rides would continue and was attended by Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Andrew Young and other civil rights giants. 

It was there that Dennis Sr. heard something that changed the trajectory of his life forever: “Okay, now make your choice, because there’s not enough space in this room for both God and fear.” 

After that, all hesitation fell away: he was wholly and completely dedicated to the Movement. 

Dennis Sr. went on to serve as field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Louisiana and Mississippi from 1961 through 1965 and as co-director with Bob Moses of the Voter Education Committee of the Council of Federated Organizations. He was part of organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and worked with Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers and James Cheney. 

He helped find Hamer safety and care after she, along with other activists, were brutally beaten in the Winona jail. He delivered Evers’ eulogy and, if not for a bout of bronchitis, would have been the fourth passenger in the car with Cheney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner that fatal night in Neshoba County.    

Dennis Jr. writes his father’s stories as if his father were telling them himself – he successfully uses in-depth interviews with his father and other civil rights workers, CORE files and correspondence and historical research to write an account that makes the readers feel as if they are Dennis Sr.’s very mind in the middle of these harrowing events. 

He masterfully fills in gaps in his father’s memory in ways that are just as telling as if Dennis Sr. had remembered each detail. The two had planned to visit Bogalusa to revisit the stories of the Deacons for Defense and Justice and the site of Bloody Wednesday, but Dennis Sr. came down with a stomach ache before they left. Bloody Wednesday refers to the events of May 19, 1965, when a mob of white people joined by officers attacked and brutalized Black men, women and children at whites-only Cassidy Park. 

Dennis Jr. went without his dad and visited with the organizers and family members of the Deacons for Justice. Valeria Hicks, one of the Deacons, told him it was Dennis Sr. who had sent them to Cassidy Park to desegregate it, having no idea it would turn into a bloodbath. 

“I know you’re reading this and laughing,” Dennis Jr. wrote in the letter to his dad in the book about his trip. “Because when I tried to tell you what Mrs. Hicks said, you said that calling for the people in Bogalusa to go to Cassidy Park was one of those memories that got closed away forever, and you still don’t remember doing it but ‘it sounds like something I would have done.’ You also swore your stomach ache came from something you ate or whatever. I believe you on both accounts.” 

He goes on to write about the lesson he learned when writing the book: sometimes the forgotten parts of one’s past are just as important as the remembered. 

“I’ve come to understand that your history is as much about what you don’t remember as it is about what you can recall with precise certainty,” Dennis Jr. writes in a letter to his father in the book. “… But you know that our bodies tell the stories our minds can’t.”   

Letters from Dennis Jr. to his father and children are peppered in between his father’s stories. They offer insights into his relationship with his father and show the unsettling parallels between what Dennis Sr. lived through in the 1960s and the events of 2018, 2019 and 2020, during which the father and son were writing the book, and Dennis Jr., a journalist, was covering the murders of Black men like Ahmaud Arbery and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement. 

“It was the summer of 2020. The summer of reckoning. The summer of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks and the largest protest in American history. I was tearing myself apart trying to cover as much of the American terror as possible, traveling to Brunswick, Georgia, to get the story of Ahmaud Arbery and chronicling every police killing because I felt like it was my responsibility to save these lives that had already been taken from us. I was burning out, breaking down, and falling apart.” 

At the same time, his father had gone off the grid. The killings of that year were too similar to the murders in the 1960s – it was more than he could take. 

Dennis Sr. had seen the video of George Floyd, screaming that he couldn’t breathe and asking for his mother. He had spent years wondering how it was when Chaney and Evers and all the others had died. Now, he saw.

“I’m seeing how they died now, Davy. George Floyd cried for his damn momma. I can’t stop hearing him screaming … For the first time I watched what it was like for white folks to kill us slowly,” he told his son over the phone. “… I hadn’t even considered if Medgar or James screamed for their mommas. Now I can’t stop wondering if they did.” 

Dennis Jr. said that was a very dark period for both him and his father. 

“You can feel like nothing has changed – you can let that despair take over, and I was letting that happen,” he said. 

The two “came out the other side,” though, he said. They finished the book, which has been met with well-deserved praise and described as incredibly timely and “one of the most important books about the Civil Rights Movement” by author Clint Smith. 

Dennis Jr. and his father will return to Mississippi, the scene of so much of the book, to the Mississippi Book Aug. 20. The father and son will join Dr. Leslie-Burl McLemore, a fellow civil rights activist and director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy at Jackson State University, for a panel moderated by Pamela Junior, director of the Two Mississippi Museums.

“It’s special because there’s so much that’s happened there, and so many of the people are still there,” he said. “… I’m hoping we can go back to Mississippi as often as possible. There’s so much soul and spirit in the book (and its characters), and you can feel it when you’re there.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Activists call for arrest of Carolyn Donham who was allegedly in on the murder of Emmett Till

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-07-01 17:15:02

National Activist John C. Barnett and other local activists traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina to hold a press conference demanding the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham.

An unserved warrant was found last week in a Mississippi courthouse charging Donham in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till.

The group of activists traveled to Raleigh and hosted the rally in front of the district attorney’s office…

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Emmett Till family’s quest for justice: Warrant discovery is latest step

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Arrest warrant discovery is latest step in Emmett Till family’s decades-long quest for justice

It’s been nearly 70 years since Emmett Till was lynched in the Mississippi Delta, but his family has not given up on justice. 

Last week, a search team that includes Till family members Deborah and Teri Watts discovered the original, unserved arrest warrant for the only living accomplice to Till’s in the basement of the Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood. 

Deborah Watts, Till’s cousin and founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, said uncovering the document is the result of the family’s perseverance and determination. 

“We never accepted (the) closing of this case by the authorities or gave up hope,” she said in a Thursday statement. “We have always pushed for full accountability of all those involved in Emmett’s murder who may still be alive.”

The uncovered warrant is for Carolyn Bryant Donham, listed as “Mrs. Roy Bryant,” and is dated Aug. 29, 1955, days after Till’s death. The document had been in the courthouse for 67 years.

She was formerly married to Roy Bryant, who with his half-brother, J.W. Milam, killed 14-year-old Till who was visiting family from Chicago. They kidnapped him after Donham wrongfully accused Till of grabbing her and making unwanted advances. 

Donham is now in her 80s and most recently lived in North Carolina. 

The Department of Justice reopened Till’s case several times in the past two decades, but no new charges were made. The two men tried for his murder in 1955 were acquitted by an all-white jury. 

For several years, family members, supporters and the foundation have called for justice for Till and for Donham to be held accountable. Finding the original warrant could make that happen, they say. 

The Till family sent certified copies of the warrant to local and federal law enforcement, according to the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. They are asking the U.S. Department of Justice Division and the Mississippi Fourth District Attorney’s Office to consider the warrant new evidence, investigate and charge Donham as an accessory in Till’s death. 

The search team, which also includes foundation ambassador Melissa Earnest, family ambassador Khali Rasheed and filmmaker and justice advocate Keith Beauchamp, received access to the courthouse on June 21, according to the foundation.

The team went through boxes organized by decade, and Rasheed found a file folder containing the warrant, according to the foundation.The original warrant and file and a certified copy can be found at the Leflore County courthouse. 

Beauchamp was granted access in March for an initial search for the warrant, according to the foundation. A few months earlier, Earnest told Watts that the warrant may possibly be in Leflore County. 

Watts said the pursuit of justice is dedicated to and honors Till and other late family members: his mother, Mamie Till Mobley; cousin Simeon Wright, who was the last to see him alive; and great uncle Mose Wright, whose home Till stayed at before his death. 

Family members have been seeking justice since Till’s death, according to the foundation. His mother chose to have an open casket at his funeral to show the world what happened to Till, and she continued to fight for justice until her death in 2003. 

In March, Till’s family and supporters visited the Mississippi State Capitol and delivered a petition with over 300,000 signatures to the ’s office calling for Donham to be charged. 

Family members founded the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, whose goal is to preserve the memory and legacy of Till and his mother’s hope for justice. The group hopes to create a legacy of hope by bridging the past, present and future through programs, according to the foundation’s website. 

In the petition, the foundation links Till’s death to modern killings of Black people, such as George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Eric Garner in New York.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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