Thursday, June 16, 2005


Being a native of Mississippi, I'm quite interested in the case of Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen, the alleged Ku Klux Klansman and leader of the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, near Philadelphia. Court TV has been providing coverage of the trial, which is now in recess after the now 80 year old Killen was taken in an ambulance to Neshoba County General Hospital for high blood pressure (reported to be over 200).

Of course, a lot of the coverage features vintage film and photographs of KKK cross burnings and protests from that era. While I was a child during the era surrounding "Freedom Summer", I was aware of what was going on. It seems rather surprising to some that I never saw a Klansman --- at least in the hood and robe costume --- until I was in my late 20s.

While still living in Jones County, a friend of mine and I were riding around one day when on the side of the road was a sign noting a KKK event that evening, apparantly part of a drive to attract new members. Neither my friend or I had ever seen such a sight, and decided to check it out.

The event was held in a clearing a few miles from our small community, off the road a bit. We never got out of my friend's car, and noted that there were about 75-80 people in least those we could see. I first became rather uncomfortable upon noticing on the edges of the clearing there were men with shotguns and/or rifles.

It was not much more than we had expected: There were several speakers espousing the usual stuff and throwing out the "N" word regularly calling for a "Euro-caucasian, Christian" America (remember, the Klan also doesn't like Jews or Catholics either). And then at the end, the traditional cross burning. That shook me more than anything, although I had seen it many times in film and pictures. At that point my friend and I looked at each other, and we didn't have to say a word to decide it was time to get the hell out of there, which we did posthaste.

To see that in person actually brought a whole new perspective to that part of history.


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