Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All Students Need Multicultural Training, Says Civil Rights Author

Contact: Susan Klopfer

Sounds like University of Texas needs lessons in multiculturalism, a civil rights author says.

The revelation that a 55-year-old dormitory at the University of Texas is named for a leader of the Ku Klux Klan has prompted questions about whether the university has done enough to confront its racial history -- and has prompted comments as well from Susan Klopfer, author of "Who Killed Emmett Till?"

UT officials, in their defense, say the school has sponsored an annual symposium for years honoring the first black student at the School of Law. Officials says the school has placed statues of important minority figures in prominent locations on campus. It named a dormitory for a longtime black staff member.

But the school's civil rights efforts are not enough, says multicultural author and consultant, Susan Klopfer.

"Celebrating a holiday or putting up statues isn't the same as understanding the root history that causes cultural problems in the first place," said the midwestern author of a book that delves into the history of the murder of a young black school boy in the Mississippi Delta in 1955. Till's lynching is said to be a spark igniting the modern civil rights movement.

"Teaching true history -- not the white-washed stories told that maintain the white culture's dominance -- needs to happen in most universities, including UT.

"Until truth-telling becomes a part of an ongoing multicultural process, these kinds of incidents will continue over and over, and students will continue to have problems understanding each other," Klopfer said.

"No school can afford to put out students into the world who are culturally ignorant. UT and other universities are going to have to make changes if they want to prepare their students to compete in today's market place. Training them to be culturally sensitive is the first step," Klopfer said.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

David Lynch Foundation Prison Meditation Program; Reduces Rule Infractions, Recidivism


Here are the facts, according to the Report of the Reentry Policy Council: Charting the Safe and Successful Return of Prisoners to the Community:

• Two million Americans are serving time in prison

• 50% of the inmates are in for violent crimes

• About 67% of the inmates released from prison are re-arrested within three years of their release

• This recidivism rate has not improved over the past 30 years

• Prisoners return to society more hardened and more willing to commit crimes than before

What the David Lynch Foundation is doing

The meditation-based rehabilitation program offered by the David Lynch Foundation has been utilized in dozens of prisons throughout the US and worldwide during the past 30 years. Research on meditating inmates at San Quentin and Folsom prisons in California and Walpole Prison in Massachusetts has found TM practice markedly reduces rule infractions and dramatically reduces recidivism rates by as much as 50 percent.

This five-minute documentary shows how the effects of Transcendental Meditation are transforming the lives of inmates, correctional officers, and staff of a medium-security prison in Oregon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gray-Haired Witnesses to Hold Fast Over Mississippi Scott Sisters

P r e s s R e l e a s e

B.J. Janice Peak-Graham / Marpessa Kupendua
1- 866-968-1188, Ext. 2

Gray-Haired Witnesses to Hold Fast
Issues Challenge to America’s Conscience

WASHINGTON, May 20 /Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice News -- The Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice will undertake a fast and appear at the Department of Justice and the White House in Washington, DC on June 21, 2010, calling upon the nation to exercise an authentic system of justice in the case of Gladys and Jamie Scott and all other women who have been incarcerated wrongly and egregiously over-sentenced, punishing and destroying our families and children. Among their demands is freedom for the Scott Sisters and that an Inspection and Observation Team enter the Pearl, MS prison where Jamie Scott is being held.

This event was prompted by the serious illness of Jamie Scott and abysmal lack of competent medical care she has received in prison since both of her kidneys shut down this past January. Jamie has suffered so much maltreatment that she has quickly declined to stage 5 (end stage) kidney disease and has now effectively been sentenced to death. The Gray-Haired Witnesses are calling on all people of good will to fast in solidarity with them and to contact the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and Dept. of Justice across the nation on that day.

The group issued the following statement about the fast in protest of continuing inhumane treatment and injustice in Americas courts and prisons:

"Over the last 20 years, the women’s population in US prisons has more than tripled. Most women are in prison as a result of drug selling, addiction, domestic violence and criminal acts mostly related to men. We also recognize the systemic racism that leads the police to even arrest the Black woman in the first place, the racism during sentencing, during incarceration, in dealing with social services, education, health discrimination, and beyond. We want to raise the political consciousness of the nation while standing as the moral soul of the nation. Many of us lived through segregation and worked to dismantle it through various movements for human dignity, equal rights and justice. We now see a coalition of corporate, cultural and political wars fully embracing a White supremacist culture of domination and terrorism. As part of this campaign they slander and dehumanize the entire Black community in the media and other public spaces.

This is perfectly illustrated by the case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys, whose almost 16 yrs of unjust incarceration is a shocking revelation of the pure nothingness with which our lives are deemed in the eyes of this society and world. In 1994, the State of Mississippi sentenced Jamie and Gladys Scott to consecutive double-life terms each for two counts of armed robbery they did not commit. They did not have prior criminal records, vigorously maintained their innocence, approximately $11 was said to have been netted, no one was harmed or injured and no weapon was ever recovered. Witnesses testified that they were coerced and threatened to lie on the Scott Sisters and their unbelievable convictions rest entirely on a combination of contradictory, coerced, and potentially perjured testimony by the victims and two other people charged with the crime who were offered lighter sentences for their cooperation. Even if the Scott Sisters were guilty of this crime, the sentence is absolutely unheard of and draconian, at best, and is cruel and unusual punishment without a doubt!

We come from a long line of women who refused to bend under the lash of chattel slavery from the time we were first dragged upon these shores until the 21st century slavery of today's prison industrial complex! We are the elder women, the daughters of the American slave system, Jim Crow oppression and the American Freedom Movement. We who are three strikes removed from the center of the power structure of this country. Our lives have prepared us to come to this place, at this time.”

The day-long event commences at the Department of Justice in a 10:00 a.m formal appeal to Eric Holder, rejoins at the White House at Noon in a formal appeal to President Obama, and then continues at Lafayette Square Park from Noon until 9PM for the duration of the fast with speakers, live performances and artists. All attendees are asked to bring non-perishable food items in honor of the fasting elders to be distributed to the Washington, DC community at the conclusion of the day.

# # #

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hunger Strike Set For June 21; Increased Women's Prison Population; Support For Scott Sisters, Mississippi

News Release
Nancy Lockhart May 14 at 2:53pm Reply
Contacts: Ruby Sales / B.J. Janice Peak-Graham
1-706-323-0246 /0247 -

The Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice are conducting a Hunger Strike at the Department of Justice Headquarters in Washington, DC on June 21, 2010.

We, who are three strikes removed from the center of the power structure of this country, want to raise the political consciousness of the nation while standing as the moral soul of the nation. We are Gray-Haired Witnesses who have struggled from time immemorial within the Black community. We are building towards a movement in history and we need all people of good will to be a part!

When Ida B. Wells stood up, she set in motion a resistance movement where many Americans broke their silence against lynching and said NO. She stood for a race of people bereft of political power or resources. More than 100 years later Gray-Haired Witnesses, Black women with a new Freedom Movement calling on this nation, stand in the spirit of those proud men and women who won hard-fought for victories in struggle and blood. We speak to the totality of the struggle of the Black woman who is debased regularly as uneducated, immoral, subhuman, whore, bad mother, and welfare queen. We also recognize the systemic racism that leads the police to even arrest the Black woman in the first place, the racism during sentencing, during incarceration, in dealing with social services, education, health discrimination, and beyond.

Over the last 20 years, the women’s population in US prisons has more than tripled. Most women are in prison as a result of drug selling, addiction, domestic violence and criminal acts mostly related to men. Too many are victimized by biased and negligent lawyers and judges. The evidence of oppression against Black and poor women significantly increased and continues to mount. Our Sisters are victimized, and subsequently our families, by enormous health care disparities, and emotional degradation through corporate media demonization of our image and place in our community. We now see a coalition of corporate, cultural and political wars fully embracing a White supremacist culture of domination and terrorism.

Our primary focus is the case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys, whose almost 16 yrs of unjust incarceration is a shocking revelation of the pure nothingness with which our lives are deemed in the eyes of this society and world, where such egregious travesties of justice are heaped upon our women with hate-filled arrogance and in plain view! In 1994, the State of Mississippi sentenced Jamie and Gladys Scott to consecutive double-life terms each for two counts of armed robbery they did not commit. They did not have prior criminal records, vigorously maintained their innocence, approximately $11 was said to have been netted, no one was harmed or injured and no weapon was ever recovered.

In January, 2010, Jamie Scott suffered failure of both kidneys. The combination of absymal health care under deplorable conditions has culminated in her steep decline to stage 5 (end stage) kidney disease. Jamie Scott has now effectively been sentenced to death. We must address this specific issue with urgency and demand that an Inspection and Observation Team be allowed into the Pearl, MS prison where Jamie Scott is being held for independent evaluation, as well as call on this government to free Jamie and Gladys Scott, wrongfully convicted and with no business being incarcerated in the first place! The case of the Scott Sisters is a horrific representation of the cases of countless other Black and poor women who have been denied the benefits of true justice and been incarcerated wrongly and in the process punishing, injuring and destroying Black families and children across the nation.

The Gray-Haired Witness are calling on all people of good will to fast and strike and resist with us across the nation on this day. The greatest asset we have is our body, mind and spirit and our willingness to step out of the daily flow of life and stand tall for what is right and just. In the tradition of race women throughout history and our survival, we declare our presence and we will not be silent and we are not afraid. Our lives have prepared us to come to this place, at this time.



1. Organize attendees to come to the event on June 21.
2. Sign your organization/ club/church/ mosque/temple, etc. on in solidarity with the event.
3. Put a statement in support on your website and link to our blogspot. Send a mailing to your email list and memberships.
4. Assist in distributing literature for this event to build it to the maximum level.
5. Assist in garnering press now and at the event.
6. Organize a local fast where you are and send a press release to local news outlets about the hunger strike and your local support efforts.
7. Dress and wear buttons in solidarity with us on that day.
8. Assist with donations towards expenses earmarked "Gray-Haired Witnesses" at http://www.spiritho useproject. org/donation. cfm.

We call on our Sisters, our Brothers to join with us to demand what is right. We must speak loudly and clearly to the devaluation of Black women's bodies and lives. We want people of all colors to wage a struggle and stand with us on these issues because none of us are free until we are all free.

FATIRAH AZIZ, ICFFMAJ, African American Freedom & Reconstruction League, Quba Institute
MAE JACKSON, Art without Walls
MARPESSA KUPENDUA, M'Backe House of Hope, Inc.
BJ JANICE PEAK-GRAHAM, OUR COMMON GROUND Communications, Inc., Progressive Alternative Talk Radio
RUBY NELL SALES, Founder and Co-Director of SpiritHouse project - Public theologian, educator and long time runner for justice
JAMIA SHEPHERD, Founder/President of S.O.P.E. - Support Our People's Efforts
The SpiritHouse Project
100 6th Street
Columbus, GA 31901

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mississippi Looking 'A Whole Lot Better Than Arizona,' Civil Rights Author Says

News Release

Contact: Susan Klopfer
Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
Cell: 505-728-7924

Smart students get angry when they learn they have been deceived in what they have been taught. This includes removal of truth from history lessons, says an Iowa author of three civil rights books.

Susan Klopfer, recent author of “Who Killed Emmett Till,” the story of the1955 Mississippi brutal murder of a young black student visiting relatives in the Delta, asserts this week’s efforts to ban ethnic studies in Arizona is “all about racism” and further, “the state will learn that censorship won’t work.”

With today’s students camping out on the Internet, reading uncensored e-books, news and pouring through editorial content, censorship and lies are harder to accomplish, Klopfer said.

"But just the attempt to blot out history will make people angry and alienated, especially those who are the targets of white political leaders and their weak attempts to control society."

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the infamous anti-immigrant bill into law, “the underlying racism was clear enough,” Klopfer said.

But Arizona’s new law that bans ethnic studies programs in the schools, in effect censoring history, "makes the attempted racism even more obvious," Klopfer added.

The Mount Pleasant author has written two books on Till and a detailed book on the civil rights movement in the Mississippi Delta, a region where she lived for two years, on the grounds of the state’s main prison, Parchman Penitentiary. Klopfer’s husband was the chief corrections psychologist in Mississippi, bringing the Oregon native and journalist into the South for the first time in her life.

“As soon as I began meeting people, asking questions and listening to their stories, it was so apparent that much of the U.S. history I had been taught in school lacked in truth. This made me so angry, that I spent up to 80 hours per week researching and writing my first civil rights book,” Klopfer said. "I wanted to make sure the history would not be lost."

Previously, Klopfer had worked as a news reporter in Branson, Missouri where as the city reporter she won state awards for investigative and community news reporting.

Following activities in Arizona for the past two week, Klopfer asserts that “Mississippi is actually looking a lot better than Arizona. Educators and citizens in Mississippi have finally decided their history must be told correctly, and the state legislature even passed a law to make this start happening in the fall.”

Mississippi has become the first state in the nation to mandate that civil rights history be taught throughout the public school system, Klopfer said.

“Sure, not everyone is happy about this and it will be a tough change, but state and academic historians have been putting their heads together to develop new materials that show what really happened in early times, from the days of enslavement through the modern civil rights movement and into the present, as more and more African Americans are taking political office and demanding change.”

Arizona, Klopfer adds, was the last state in the Union to recognize the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and “suffers from a poor track record on tolerance, to start with."


Klopfer answers questions about her books and racism:

Q. Why did you become so motivated in Mississippi to write your first book?

A. “What motivated me more than ever was the anger I felt after moving to the Mississippi Delta and learning the history I’d never been taught -- the story of Emmett Till, for instance, or the history of Medgar Evers who was assassinates; Fannie Lou Hamer -- how she was beaten and raped for using a white restroom -- and shunned by the Democratic Party when she tried to tell her story at the 1964 convention; or stories about Aaron Henry and Amzie Moore who, in fact, were founding fathers of the modern civil rights movement, and yet rarely recognized in today’s history books.”

Q. What is happening in the world of text books today?

A. “Bad stuff. This spring, the Texas Board of Education approved a curriculum change that essentially mandates a conservative, white-Christian bias in the teaching of social science. This has resulted in a wholesale removal of brown and black people from the textbooks.

“People such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and civil rights groups like LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund were stricken from the books. The story of Justice Thurgood Marshall was allowed to remain but important details were removed. The same goes for Cesar Chavez and the grape boycott.

“Conservatives defeated attempts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures in the curriculum, in that heavily Latino state. Hence, the people who determine how history is taught in many of our schools throughout the country (because they select the official textbooks) are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world."

Q. When did ethnic studies begin? Why are they important?

“This movement came about in the 1960s and early 1970s at a time of empowerment for racial and ethnic minority groups. When Harvard students demanded black studies in 1968, some faculty predicted the end of civilization! Students on campuses around the country began challenging the Eurocentric teaching of history, the social sciences and the humanities on college campuses. The feeling was that when marginalized students -- African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and others -- learned how their people were a part of American history, they would excel in their studies. Further, we all benefit as a society when we learn about the heritage of all groups, and their contributions to the world.

“As this country moves more into globalization, this is a time when we should be increasing our multicultural efforts and teaching our children to live together and understand one another. As Mississippi has come to recognize, the people of Arizona must understand they are sending the wrong message by banning ethnic studies and truth in history. It won’t work to lie and it will make many people even angrier as they learn the truth. Instead of working together, Arizona is telling people of color they don't count, that their culture doesn't matter.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sixth Trial for Curtis Flowers, Mississippi African American, Opens June 7 in Winona; Prosecutors 'Set a Record'

Friends of Justice
Executive Director, Dr. Alan Bean
email: abean@friendsofjustice.netcell: 817.688.6765
office: 817.457.0025
Mailing Adress: 3415 Ainsworth Court, Arlington, Texas 76016

The case against Curtis Flowers [Winona, Mississippi] started with a bloody footprint. It took just over a week to link the print pattern to a Grant Hill Fila running shoe. Then a policeman remembered seeing a Fila shoe box in the bedroom closet of Connie Mae Moore, Curtis Flowers’ live-in girlfriend.

They couldn’t prosecute Curtis on one piece of circumstantial evidence, but Doug Evans and his investigator, John Johnson, knew they had their man.

That’s how wrongful conviction begins.
[Editor's note: On the morning of July 16, 1996, four people were brutally murdered at a furniture store in the small Mississippi town of Winona. By 11:00 am everybody had heard the news: Bertha Tardy, the proprietor of Tardy ‘s Furniture, had been killed execution style. Carmen Rigby, Tardy’s longtime bookkeeper, had suffered the same fate, as had hired hands, Bobo Stewart and Robert Golden. Golden was black, the other three victims were white. Six months later, Curtis Flowers, a young black Winona resident who had worked three days for Bertha Tardy, was arrested and charged with the brutal murder of four innocent people.Thirteen years, $300,000 and five trials later, Mr. Flowers remains behind bars and the state has been unable to obtain a final conviction. This sixth trial opens June 7. Dr. Alan Bean, a forensic historian, has been investigating the incident and has much to say about what has take place, thus far.]

Link --

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mississippi Scott Sisters Update: Fellow Prisoner Collapses, Dies: Had Just Questioned Her Medical Care

Jamie and Gladys Scott, Mississippi Inmates, $11 Robbery

(Ed. Note. Learn more about the Scott Sisters at the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission blog.)

Update From: nattyreb
Subject: [scottsistersupdates] !*CHECK IT: 5/5 SCOTT SISTERS UPDATE!
To: "Evelyn Rasco"
Date: Wednesday, May 5, 2010, 12:28 PM

Mrs. Rasco received word that last evening a 13 yr. friend of Jamie Scott's took a few steps toward her and fell down dead. The guards ran to her aid and tried CPR and everything that they could, but the woman had passed away. Jamie became hysterical,vomited blood and began losing breath. The guards there calmed Jamie, prayed with her, and stayed with her until her heart rate returned to normal.

This woman had issues with her medication and health care in the prison for years, and was just questioning her medication earlier that day. The consensus among the inmates was that this woman's death was just another example of the poor medical care in that hellhole.

The issue remains of Jamie vomiting blood, as well as reporting that there
are large, infected knots spread in various parts of her body which are painful and full of pus and blood. Jamie is terrified that she will be the next one to die and reports that her body is again full of infection. She has also been told that she has become anemic and that her blood sugars are only checked on a once weekly basis!

Please support by participating in two action requests!


Jamie needs to be hospitalized and cleared of these infections! There also
needs to be a determination about the level of medical care she is receiving as it is apparent that she is not being monitored carefully as these infections continue to thrive and remain untreated until there is a demand from the outside.

Please contact these officials and let them know that Jamie Scott, #19197, needs to be hospitalized ASAP as she has infections throughout her body that need immediate treatment!

Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
HOTLINE: 202-353-1555
PHONE: 202-514-2000
202-307-6777 fax
AskDOJ@usdoj. gov

Dr. Gloria Perry, Medical Department (601) 359-5155
gperry@mdoc. us

Christopher Epps
723 North President Street
Jackson, MS 39202

Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
(If you reach VM leave msgs, faxes, and please send letters)

============ ======


Please e-mail, the following persons at The American Bar Association in support of the Scott Sisters. Please blind Copy (bcc) and paste in all e-mail addresses. A 1-800 number is also included below. Our goal here is to have thousands contact the ABA as there is power in numbers.


American Bar Association
Attention: President Carolyn Lamm
321 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654-7598

Dear President Lamm:

I would like to bring your attention to the Case of The Scott Sisters. In the state of Mississippi, Jamie and Gladys Scott were convicted of armed robbery. A jury found the sisters guilty in 1994, transcripts conflictingly state that $11 dollars was netted. The sisters received double life sentences each for this crime, had no prior criminal records, and no one was injured in any way. A 14 year old testified that he was coerced and threatened to be sent to Parchman Penitentiary if he did not lie on the sisters by signing a statement. Other witnesses stated that the sisters were not involved in this crime. Jamie and Gladys Scott were convicted with no physical evidence.

The sisters are in need of a pro bono criminal law attorney. Currently, an attorney is handling Jamie Scott’s medical issues as she has had kidney failure and is receiving sub standard medical care via the MDOC and Wexford Health Sources, Inc.. Jamie Scott is in stage 5 of kidney failure, which is the final stage.

I am requesting that you assist in securing a criminal attorney to review their prior appeals process and determine additional ways to re enter state or federal court. Above all, the sisters should be immediately exonerated.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.


(Your name)

Case Summary: http://freethescott sisters.blogspot .com/search/ label/Case% 20Summary
Legal Transcripts: http://www.scribd. com/doc/21748820 /Scott-transcrip t


Jamie and Gladys want to thank all of the supporters so much for everything that's being done on their behalf,they are so happy to receive mail and to know that we are out here fighting for them and want to make sure that you know how grateful they are!

Gladys Scott, #19142
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Jamie Scott, #19197
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Please help spread the word to the media, Mrs. Evelyn Rasco is available for interviews and can be reached at We need the Scott Sisters case to be known worldwide!

------------ ---
Visit and LINK to: http://www.freethes cottsisters. blogspot. com
Subscribe to our group: Send a blank e-mail to scottsistersupdates -subscribe@ yahoogroups. com and share information!
Facebook Group: Free The Scott Sisters
Facebook Fan Page: Free The Scott Sisters
Free the Scott Sisters Petition: http://www.ipetitio Gladys/index. html
Free the Scott Sisters Flyer: Flyer-Black- 23-Mar-2010- 20
Legal Transcripts:

Politicians Should Pay Heed to History; Boycotts Work Says Civil Rights Author, Susan Klopfer

Contact: Susan Klopfer

Politicians Should Pay Heed to History; Boycotts Work

Boycotts make a definite economic impact for groups seeking social justice, says a civil rights author.

Responding to Arizona's law cracking down on illegal immigration and the resulting national protests, including threat of boycott to Arizona’s tourism industry, Susan Klopfer, author of three books on civil rights in the Mississippi Delta, argues that "such economic embargoes have retained their role as a strong and successful tradition in modern civil rights history."

Klopfer's remarks come as protests have already taken place in more than 90 cities in the U.S. "reminding politicians of the size of the immigrant community."

This week, Jorge-Mario Cabrera from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, California, told reporters if Republicans and Democrats "do not take care of this albatross around our necks, this will in fact be the undoing of many, many years of civil rights struggle in this country."

In Cabrera's city, more than 60,000 reportedly people turned out for a downtown rally.

“Cabrera knows what he is talking about,” Klopfer responds, giving as example "a particularly strong but little known boycott" that took place in the Mississippi Delta nearly fifty years ago:

As 1961 came to a close, "Some white folks in the Mississippi Delta were dreaming of a White Christmas when they decided to keep their black customers away from the city of Clarksdale's annual parade."

But their tune changed dramatically when Coahoma County's NAACP chapter led by civil rights activist Aaron Henry sponsored a major boycott over the Christmas shopping season of 1961, according to Klopfer.

"Clarksdale's downtown stores were all heavily dependent on black trade, giving the boycott both immediate and lasting effects," Klopfer said.

Medgar Evers, head of the state NAACP, and Henry had met that summer with with President John F. Kennedy during the NAACP convention in Philadelphia, talking with Kennedy and others over the severity of their problems.

Then two months later, shortly after their meeting, Clarksdale's mayor decided there would be “no Negro participation” in the annual Christmas parade, and his decision would result in the first major confrontation in Clarksdale since 1955, according to Klopfer.

“Henry and others were stunned and affronted by the mayor's edict. It was tradition for the black band to play at the end of the parade, followed by floats from their community. There seemed to be no reason for this decision, except that the mayor apparently resented the progress African Americans were making all over the state.”

Henry and Evers called for a boycott of downtown stores with a slogan stating if they couldn't parade downtown, they wouldn't trade downtown.

Handbills were printed and a newsletter sent out asking for blacks to join in the boycott; merchants felt pressure from the start.

"The white community leaders would not come to terms with the black community and the boycott dragged on,” Klopfer said.

Aaron Henry "voiced the black community's view" when he said it could go on forever unless there were real changes in hiring practices.

When the county's attorney Thomas H. (Babe) Pearson threatened to jail Henry if he didn’t use his influence to call off the boycott, Henry would not budge, so Pearson called out for Clarksdale Police Chief Ben Collins to come out from the side room of his office, and told him to “take this nigger to jail.”

The arrest was illegal, Klopfer states, since no warrant was issued, "but Henry knew better not to argue with an armed policeman. He could have been killed for such dissent.”

Years later, "Henry admitted he didn't mind going to jail at the time, since he knew it would result in an intensification of the boycott--and it did.”

Seven more Clarksdale civil rights leaders were brought in and all were locked up, later charged with restraint of trade and released. The boycott reached its peak about three years later, following passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and merchants felt the economic pinch throughout the event as they missed one-half of their customers, Klopfer said.

Yet even while Henry and others were being arrested, another group -- all white -- tried launching a boycott of their own when the Mississippi State Legislature passed a resolution that no loyal Mississippian should shop in Memphis, Tennessee, just across the state line, and quite close to Clarksdale, Klopfer said.

“Tougaloo College professor John Salter, a dedicated civil rights activist, wrote about the Clarksdale boycott, noting that while public accommodations and other facilities in Memphis were quietly desegregating, the Mississippi legislature further distinguished itself, ‘ publicly investigating conditions at the University Hospital in Jackson, where white and black children were leaving their segregated wards and playing together in the corridors’.”

Few people today have read about the Clarkdale boycott, Klopfer admits.

But others have learned in their history books -- or were alive at the time -- when six years earlier, African-Americans in Alabama launched a boycott of the bus system in Montgomery after local civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white rider.

“Parks 1955 decision came soon after the trial freeing the murderers of Emmett Till, an African American 14-year-old Illinois school boy who was killed in the Mississippi Delta for allegedly whistling at white women,” Klopfer said.

Given that African-Americans constituted a large part of the bus ridership, history books show the boycott hurt Montgomery’s revenue base.

“People found alternative ways to get to work and school, and the boycott drew national attention. Even some northerners supported the boycott and gave donations."

Both Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, who would remain at the forefront of the struggle through the 1960s, "emerged at this time.”

The Montgomery boycott ended in 1956 when the Supreme Court declared that the segregated transit system was unconstitutional.

“From this history and their own, Hispanics know that boycotts have proven effective in their quest for labor justice and union rights.” Klopfer said.

In 1965, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, led by Cesar Chavez, launched a national boycott against grapes.

“The five-year boycott, or la huelga, placed enormous pressure on California grape growers to recognize the union and it drew national attention to the plight of unorganized immigrant workers in low-paying and dangerous jobs,” Klopfer said.

Meanwhile, boycotts still carry a threat in the Delta, according to the civil rights author.

“Citizens in the small town of Cleveland, near the site where Emmett Till was killed in 1955, threatened an Easter boycott just last month over an issue involving school segregation. One thousand school children marched from their building to administrative offices."

Klopfer says the school board listened -- "at least for this particular demand" -- and gave in, after board members were told of an impending boycott.

“Boycotts carry weight and politicians should be taking seriously the response to Arizona’s new law, if they value lessons learned from history.”


Susan Klopfer is the author of three civil rights books, including "Who Killed Emmett Till?" "The Emmett Till Book" and "Where Rebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited." She is an award-winning journalist and has been an acquisitions and development editor for Prentice Hall. She is the author of a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection and is a public speaker, freelance writer and active blogger.

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