By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor
Fifty years ago today, the course of American history changed. It was changed by a few carloads of haters, with law enforcement officers complicit. Murder, pure and simple. It was June 16, 1964 that the Mount Zion Methodist Church was burned to the ground by arsonists. The church offended the Ku Klux Klan because it housed a Freedom School. This was a part of the educational program designed to help black Mississippians register to vote. The attack on the church was not a sneak arson in the wee hours. In fact, Klan members assaulted and beat several African Americans present at the church. Then they set the church on fire, burning it to the ground.
Intelligence gathered later by legitimate law enforcement discovered that the Neshoba County church was not chosen by accident. The attack on the church and the people inside was designed to lure more CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality) volunteers to the area. The Klan was interested in one worker in particular, Michael Schwerner. He had attracted interest as a target, aside from being Jewish, because he had helped with a boycott of Mississippi stores, his Freedom Summer activities, and of course helping set up Freedom Schools around the state. The carefully planned trap worked.
Continue reading “Mississippi Burning, 50th Anniversary of a Crime That Nearly Went Unpunished.”