Decades later, many murders of blacks and racial hate crimes committed in the south during the Civil Rights era remain unsolved, but activists and the FBI continue to seek the killers, many of whom are still thought to be alive.
Murders of Southern Blacks in 1960's Still Unsolved
LESTER HOLT, co-host:
Now, to bring closure to crimes in the deep South that have gone unsolved for more than four decades. James Ford Seale, now 71, was arrested earlier this week for his alleged connection to the 1964 slayings of two black men in Mississippi. It's just one of the number of cases that have gone cold involving the murders of blacks during the civil rights struggle. But to this day, there are people fighting to bring justice to those victims. Here's NBC's Ron Mott.
RON MOTT reporting:
This reenactment, an annual reminder of a 60-year-old unsolved racial hate crime, keeps a vicious quadruple murder on the minds of many, many who hope to see it solved. Some who were in the white lynch mob that sunny day in July 1946, near Moore's Ford Bridge an hour east of Atlanta, are still believed alive, and so are old symbols of hostility.
TYRONE BROOKS (Georgia State Legislator): Many of them are walking the streets of Monroe, riding in their vehicles, going into restaurants, going to their places of worship, breathing the same air we breathe. And they have never been punished.
MOTT: George Dorsey and his girlfriend Willie Mae Murray, his pregnant sister Dorothy and her boyfriend, Roger Malcolm, were pulled from their car, beaten, and repeatedly shot.
BOBBY HOWARD (Activist): They killed those people right along here.
MOTT: Activist Bobby Howard has sought justice for them virtually nonstop since 1968.
HOWARD: People don't really realize or understand how black people feel about what life was like for them and what happened to our black brothers and sisters over the years.
MOTT: Recent convictions have energized Howard and others, prompting local and state agencies across the South to take another look at dozens of cold cases. The FBI is also actively involved.
CHIP BURRUS (FBI): I don't think it's in the FBI's interest or in the American public's interest to let any of these cases go unresolved.
MOTT: A white state trooper, still living, shot Jackson during a voting rights demonstration, but says he fired in self-defense. The famous Selma to Montgomery march soon followed.
Jimmy Lee Jackson's death is one of 51 the FBI is investigating from the civil rights era. Advocates say this pursuit of justice should never end, instead flowing like waters the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about, words that are memorialized here at the Civil Rights Museum.
Noted civil rights attorney Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center says amnesty should be given to those who could help solve these cases.
MORRIS DEES (Southern Poverty Law Center): Well, these aren't garden variety murders. These are killings; hate crime killings of people trying to exercise constitutional rights in the United States.
MOTT: Names of victims remain suspended in time like justice delayed for decades.
HOWARD: Only the truth will set us free.
MOTT: The question: Will justice be denied for those who paid the ultimate price? For TODAY, Ron Mott, NBC News, Montgomery, Alabama.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is a somber hilltop monument of rusted steel overlooking Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1860s, the city saw the birth of the Confederacy as states that separated from the Union joined together to form a unified government that would allow slavery. In the 1950s and 1960s, it saw the birth of the civil rights movement that called for equal rights for African-Americans.
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