"Mississippi Burning" Town Elects First Black Mayor

Air Date: 07/03/2009
Source:
NBC Nightly News
Creator:
Lester Holt/Mark Potter
Air/Publish Date:
07/03/2009
Event Date:
07/03/2009
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2009
Clip Length:
00:02:21

This July 4th weekend, James Young was sworn in as the first African American mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi. For a town long  known for the brutal murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, Young's election, with multi-racial support, marks a turning point.

“Mississippi Burning” Town Elects First Black Mayor

LESTER HOLT, anchor:

This is a special Fourth of July weekend for Philadelphia, Mississippi, as it declares its independence from an ugly past. The town has long been known as the site of the brutal 1964 murders of three civil rights workers, a story told by the film "Mississippi Burning." But today Philadelphia is writing a new chapter. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

MARK POTTER reporting:

On an historic day in a place much different now, James Young was sworn in this morning as the first black mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Mayor JAMES YOUNG: Today is the beginning of moving forward in Philadelphia, Mississippi. We've been on the map. Now we own the map.

POTTER: Fifty-three-year-old James Young grew up in Philadelphia in an era of racial strife. In the 1960s as Ku Klux Klan night riders terrorized blacks, he hid with his parents in this house.

Mayor YOUNG: In those times our community was told, you know, y'all stay off the streets at certain, you know, nightfall, stay off the streets.

POTTER: Forty-five years ago on this road outside Philadelphia, the US civil rights movement took an ominous turn. In June 1964, three young civil rights activists were murdered here. They had been trying to register blacks to vote. Today, residents say, the decades have brought dramatic change, including the manslaughter conviction here four years ago of Edgar Ray Killen, the former Klan leader who plotted the attacks on Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner.

Mr. JIM PRINCE (Neshoba Democrat Editor): I think the clouds have parted and the sun's kind of broken through, and we've got an opportunity now.

POTTER: Mayor Young, who is also a minister, was elected with multiple racial support in a town that's 55 percent white.

Unidentified Pastor: Somebody said change!

Crowd of People: (In unison) Change!

Pastor: Somebody said change!

People: (In unison) Change!

Mayor YOUNG: We lost a lot of people getting here. I'll never forget what those guys and their families paid for our rights. Never will.

POTTER: A new day many long years in the making. Mark Potter, NBC News, Philadelphia, Mississippi.

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