Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Emmett Till Audio Book Release Set For January

14-year-old Emmett Till, Lynched in the Mississippi Delta, Aug. 28, 1955

News Release
Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Contact: Susan Klopfer
505-728-7924 (cell)

“I interviewed the mortuary assistant who worked all night back in 1955 to prepare Emmett Till’s body as best he could for Emmett’s mother, before he put it on the train to be shipped back to Chicago. While meeting several such eyewitnesses to history and discovering new information about this cold case and others, I knew it was time to write this book.” −Who Killed Emmett Till, Susan Klopfer

Emmett Till Audio Book Set For January Release

Release of the first audio book of the Emmett Till story − Who Killed Emmett Till? − is set for January 15, in time for February’s Black History month.

The story of Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy killed in the Mississippi Delta in the summer of 1955, has resurfaced as the FBI continues to focus on this and other cold cases from the modern civil rights movement.

“Emmett Till’s lynching sparked the modern civil rights movement. There are many people who still do not know this important story and this audio book will help fill the gap,” Susan Klopfer, the book’s author, said.

While visiting the home of his uncle, in the small cotton town of Money, Emmett Till, his cousin, and several other black youth went into the town’s general store. What actually happened is still disputed, Klopfer says, but according to several versions, Till was dared by one of the other boys to flirt with white store owner’s wife, 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant.

“Some accounts state he whistled at her while others say he grabbed her hand and said ‘Bye, baby,’ as he left.”

At about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 28, Till was kidnapped from his uncle’s home and taken to a weathered shed on a plantation in neighboring Sunflower County, where he was beaten and shot. A 70-pound cotton gin fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire to weigh down the body, which was dropped into the river near Glendora, another small cotton town north of Money.

Till’s corpse, surfacing three days later, was returned to Chicago where his mother decided it should be publicly displayed to show the world the brutality of the killing.

An estimated 100,000 people viewed the open casket, bringing worldwide attention to racism in the United States. Till was buried Sept. 6 in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

Less than three weeks later, on Sept. 23, the men accused of killing Emmett Till − J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant − were found innocent by an all white jury, after 67 minutes of deliberation.

Twelve weeks after the acquittal of the two men, who later confessed to the murder in a national magazine, Rosa Parks decided to sit at the front of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

“She was not the first activist to make this move. There had been other attempts. But Parks had been planning her personal protest, and along with the NAACP knew the right time had arrived,” Klopfer said.

There had been two recent murders of black citizens, shortly before Till’s visit to the Delta. Rev. George Lee and Lamar Smith were shot to death, their murders instigated by anger over increased voter registration activities and by the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Brown I declared racial discrimination in public education unconstitutional and a second decision, Brown II, ordered one year later that desegregation occur "with all deliberate speed."

“The Delta already was an unsafe place for any black person, considering the heightened tension. It was particularly unsafe for anyone violating Jim Crow standards for acceptable behavior in the segregated south. Emmett Till was a young man who had never experienced living in such hostility. He was known to be a prankster and had no idea that his action of harassing a white woman would end his life.”

No mass movement starts all of a sudden. “Before the Civil War began and well into the 1940s and early 50s, many years before the modern civil rights movement made the pages of the white press and then television, there were brave souls trying to right wrongs. Some worked in the North and others tried their best from inside “the belly of the beast” −- Mississippi.”

Who Killed Emmett Till? covers this entire time period and comes from a unique perspective. “My husband and I moved to the Mississippi Delta in 2003 and one year later, the Till cold case was opened. Because Fred was a prison psychologist, we lived on the grounds of Parchman Penitentiary, a notorious place with a fascinating history.

“I quickly learned we were living near the location outside of Drew where Till was killed, and close to Sumner, where the trial took place. I interviewed the mortuary assistant who worked all night back in 1955 to prepare Emmett Till’s body as best he could for Emmett’s mother, before he put it on the train to be shipped back to Chicago. While meeting several such eyewitnesses to history and discovering new information about this cold case and others, I knew it was time to write this book.”

Hedquist Productions, a Libertyville, Iowa group, recorded and produced the 6-CD set. “I’m really delighted at the quality of their work. The audio book was read by Jeffrey Hedquist, a well-known voice talent whose work is associated with projects by St. Martin’s Press, Chicken Soup For the Soul and many other well known organizations,” Klopfer said.

“Hedquist has won over 700 awards, including most of the big awards – from Clio, IBA, ADDY, Hatch, New York International, Sunny, Silver Microphone, Mobius, RAC, London International, ANDY, EFFIE, The One Show, and hundreds of regional awards,” Klopfer said.

Who Killed Emmett Till? − featuring the regional music of delta blues musicians − is set for distribution in major online bookstores and in selected regional, independent bookstores.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Mississippi Burning Case Could Reopen; James Chaney's Body May Be Exhumed

X-rays show two bullets were never removed from James Chaney, says a world-renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden of New York City. "They're still in his body, and they could be matched to the weapons that did it."

Exhuming the body of this civil rights worker could help identify others involved in the Ku Klux Klan's 1964 killings of Chaney and two other civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, Baden says.

The murders of Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Goodman, a 20-year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Schwerner, a 24-year-old white Jewish CORE organizer and former social worker also from New York, symbolized the risks of participating in the Civil Rights Movement in the South during what became known as "Freedom Summer", dedicated to voter registration.

Chaney's brother, Ben, told reporter Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson Clarion Ledger that he and his family support an exhumation. "If they (FBI agents) want to take the bullets from my brother, we'll do that," he said. "Whatever they need."

More on Mitchell's story --

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Klan Protests Song Change at University of Mississippi

Members of the Ku Klux Klan dress in full robes for a protest on the steps of Fulton Chapel at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009.(AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Ryan Moore)

The Ku Klux Klan protested before a University of Mississippi and LSU game today. The focus of the Ku Klux Klan’s protest was a line that is chanted at the end of the University of Mississippi’s fight song: From Dixie with Love. The line that is chanted is, “The South will Rise Again.”

The song From Dixie with Love has its roots in the civil war and has been used as the Ole Miss fight song for many years. At the end of the song, however, many chanters openly shout, “The South will Rise Again.”

The chant has been deemed racist and offensive by the many African American students who attend the University of Mississippi. In fact, the chant has become so troublesome, that University of Mississippi Chancellor, Dan Jones had ordered students to stop chanting. After they continued chanting, he ordered the song From Dixie with Love to cease being played. The Ku Klux Klan came out to rally in lieu of the chant “The South Will Rise Again.”

Here's more --

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Woman Faces 15 Years for Cutting Line at Walmart

Woman Faces 15 Years for Cutting Line at Walmart

See the video here


by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University, AOL Black Voices

In case you haven't heard, there is a young woman in Kennett, Missouri who has gone through one of our worst nightmares. Three years ago, Heather Ellis was in a local Walmart shopping with her cousin. The two cousins decided to go in separate directions to find the shortest line. After seeing that her cousin's line was shorter, Heather went to join him. That's when things got strange.

Heather was accused of cutting line and the security guard was notified. According to Heather, she and her cousin repeatedly informed the guard that they were together, but that didn't seem to matter. The police affidavit claims that Ellis was loud, belligerent and cursing when she was told to leave the store.

After police arrived, Ellis was taken to jail in front of her family. Her aunt, Lily Blackmon, arrived on the scene after receiving a call from her son about the incident. According to Blackmon, her niece's head was being slammed against the police car and the officer only said "she cursed," when asked why she was being treated so harshly.

Ellis was charged with disturbing the peace, trespassing, resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a police officer. The young college student was then offered a plea bargain from Dunklin County Prosecutor, Stephen Sokoloff. The felony counts were reduced to one misdemeanor of disturbing the peace. However, Heather's aunt believes that the offer was made so the family would not sue the police department.

Heather refused to take the plea deal, since she says she'd be lying if she admitted to committing a crime that day. Eleven months after the incident, the misdemeanor was surprisingly dropped. While this might seem to be good news, it wasn't. The misdemeanors have been replaced by felony assault charges, carrying a maximum sentence of 15-years in prison.
Heather believes that the pending felonies have cost her two jobs and the chance to get into graduate school. She still refuses to sign the plea deal. Either way, she has a reason to fight, and I want to fight with her. Heather's case speaks to all of us: most of us have jumped the line at Walmart to be with a relative, and most of us know what it's like to experience police abuse of authority. No matter how much cursing Heather might have done that day, she doesn't deserve to go to prison. Also, if the prosecutor can reduce major felonies to one tiny misdemeanor, he could have dropped all the charges and let this woman go on with her education.

You can watch a video of the incident by clicking here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Author revisits Mississippi delta civil rights cases

Former area author revisits civil rights cases

Sunday, 11 October 2009 00:00

Susan Klopfer believes the long, sad chapter of American history surrounding the civil rights struggles of African Americans should never be forgotten. Using her journalistic talents, she’s authored two books focused on unsolved atrocities in the Mississippi Delta region that have brought new light to several cases.

Klopfer, whose husband, Fred, is a psychologist, has authored several non-fiction books in the past, including a computer book for Prentice-Hall, “Abort! Retry! Fail!” that was an alternate selection for the Book-of-the-Month Club. She’s now marketing two books she wrote while living in the Mississippi Delta: “Where Rebels Roost: Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited,” and “The Emmett Till Book.”

Klopfer lived two years in Mississippi and was fascinated when meeting interesting people who were part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. They inspired her to collect their stories and to do extensive research and writing over a 23-month period.

“Every time I turned around, I was running into people who wanted to talk about what they knew, about what happened during the civil rights years,” Klopfer said. “Many had relatives who were killed or disappeared. I started working like crazy because I was excited about what I was discovering and learning.”

Continued --

Friday, October 9, 2009

Navy to honor civil rights martyr Medgar Evers

In the driveway outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot to death by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963. His murderer was not convicted until 1994.

From Breaking News 24/7

WASHINGTON — Slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers will be honored Friday with a Navy supply ship named for him.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, planned to announce the honor during a speech at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. The nearly 700-foot-long vessel named for Evers will deliver food, ammunition and parts to other ships at sea.

During the civil rights movement Evers organized nonviolent protests, voter registration drives and boycotts in Mississippi, rising to the post of national field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1963 Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his home in Jackson after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. His death prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill.

Evers was born in Decatur, Miss., in 1925 and served in the Army during World War II. He returned to Mississippi, earned a degree from Alcorn College in 1952 and became active in the NAACP and its civil rights work in his home state.

Thirty-seven when he was shot to death by a white supremacist, Evers was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was not convicted until 1994.

While writing Where Rebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited, I had the honor and privilege of reading, researching and learning more about Medgar Evers. In the Delta and throughout Mississippi and the world, this early modern civil rights leader is remembered and loved. From talking to others, I learned that ..

MEDGAR EVERS was sixteen and a sophomore when World War I broke out. Within a year, he quit school and joined his brother Charles Evers in the U.S. Army. Medgar Evers was attached to a segregated battalion that served in England and after the Normandy invasion, in France.

The experience of travel opened up the world to him; the opportunity to leave the South provided an adventure he could not forget. In France, he found “a whole people – all of them white – who apparently saw no difference in a man simply because of his skin color, and this was perhaps the greatest revelation of all,” he once told his wife, Myrlie, recalled in her autobiography.

While Evers grew up in Decatur Mississippi, outside of the Delta, he would spend his first several years out of college in Mound Bayou of Bolivar County, working with Amzie Moore and Dr. T.R.M.Howard organizing NAACP chapters and investigating murders, and working also selling insurance.

Evers quickly came to know Aaron Henry and the three men began lifelong journeys to change Mississippi. All returning black veterans – Moore, Henry and Evers – faced the Delta’s familiar extremes, both old and new.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, his wife, wrote a beautiful book about Medgar and the times in which they lived, For Us, The Living. You can also read more about Evers at this Clarion-Ledger link.(sk)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friends of Justice Moves on Winona Murder Case

(Photo: Legendary Organizer Fannie Lou Hamer by Charmain Reading)

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi Delta civil rights leader, was frequently the target of social injustice. The town where she was once beaten, Winona, is currently the target of a murder investigation by the Friends of Justice.

Friends of Justice launches narrative-based campaigns around unfolding cases where due process has broken down, and empower affected communities to hold public officials accountable for equal justice.

Recently, FOJ took interest in Winona, Miss., asserting that the state’s theory of a murder in the small town, accusing a company's former worker, Curtis Flowers, of the crime "... doesn’t fit the actual evidence, and the state manufactured phoney evidence by manipulating, badgering and bribing witnesses."

Details of the Curtis Flowers case are shared at the FOJ website in a story titled, "A brief primer in wrongful conviction: the case of Curtis Flowers."

Senate Confirms Tom Perez to Head the Civil Rights Division

The Senate voted 72-22 to confirm Tom Perez as assistant attorney general for civil rights this week.

President Obama nominated Perez for the position on March 13. Perez will head the Civil Rights Division, the federal agency that enforces the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and other federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin.

Read More

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Author Blogging Emmett Till Book Honoring 54th Anniversary of Civil Rights Event

The sight of 14-year-old Emmett Till's brutalized body, shown 54 years ago openly to thousands of mourners in Chicago, pushed many sideliners directly into the modern civil rights movement. In observance of Till and five other civil rights martyrs, an Iowa civil rights author is blogging Who Killed Emmett Till? Stories of Six Civil Rights Martyrs of the Mississippi Delta.

Mount Pleasant, Iowa, 6 August 2009-- In the hot summer before the cold winter in which our nation entered the second world war to end all wars, two black males were born two weeks apart; one in Illinois and the other in the Mississippi Delta.

They would never meet. Both were killed in and near the small cotton ginning town of Drew in Sunflower County, heart of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta.

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago was kidnapped one quiet August night in the summer of 1955 while visiting Mississippi relatives in the small cotton hamlet of Money.

Accused of whistling at a white store-owner’s wife and making smart remarks, Till was forcibly taken to a plantation owner’s tool shed at the edge of nearby Drew where he was tortured, beaten and shot to death. His body was moved to another small cotton town, Glendora, and dumped into the Tallahatchie River.

Some 42 years later, Cleveland McDowell of Drew, a 56-year-old Mississippi attorney whose career was unquestionably defined by Till’s untimely murder, was found shot to death at home in Drew.

McDowell, the first black law student accepted into the James Eastland School of Law at the University of Mississippi, achieved numerous honors throughout his life. He was a bright Drew Junior High School leader the day Till was murdered and was so affected that he went on to study law.

All of his professional life, McDowell secretly tracked details of race-based murders, including the lynching of Till. He remained a friend of Emmett Till’s mother, updating her of information as it was gathered until he died in 1997. Mrs. Till lived until 2003.

Emmett Till’s murder sparked the upsurge of activism and resistance known as the modern civil rights movement, historians now say. Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience followed by twelve weeks the September 24 acquittal of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, who later publicly admitted killing Till.

Klopfer’s blog book covers four other civil rights martyrs from the Delta including Joe Pullen and Jo Etha Collier.

“Some of Drew’s black elders still talk about a story passed down by their parents and relatives focusing on a 1923 gunfight raging into the early morning hours of December 15 between Joe Pullen, a tenant farmer and WWI veteran, and plantation manager W.T. Saunders. The fight would also turn out to be a watershed event in U.S. history after Pullen shot and killed Saunders during an argument over money and then Pullen’s own life ended in a ditch at the edge of Drew when he was shot after an all-night gun battle.”

By 1965 concerted efforts to break the grip of state disfranchisement had been under way for some time, but had achieved only modest success overall and in some areas had achieved no success at all.

On May 25, 1971 Jo Etha Collier, an 18-year-old black girl, was shot dead in her hometown of Drew less than an hour after she graduated from desegregated Drew High School. She had been shot below the ear and was bleeding heavily; she died before reaching the hospital.

“School integration had gone smoothly in Drew even though a majority of white parents had taken their children out of Drew High School. Those who stayed were getting along well with their black classmates and there were no reported racial incidents during the school year.”

None of Mississippi’s thousands of murders were simply isolated events, including the slaying of Emmett Till. They simply fit into a pattern reflective of the region’s brutal culture formed even before statehood, says Klopfer who provides story after story of murder and cruelty leading up to the 1955 murder of Till and then McDowell in 1997.

For additional information on Klopfer’s book blogging project contact Susan Klopfer or visit

About Susan Klopfer:

Susan Klopfer holds a B.A. degree in communication from Hanover College and a Master’s Degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. She was an acquisitions and development editor for Prentice Hall where she authored Abort! Retry! Fail! The DOS Answer Book. Klopfer lived in the Mississippi Delta on the grounds of historical Parchman Penitentiary while researching and writing The Emmett Till Book and Where Rebels Roost, Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited.


Susan Klopfer