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Vol. 71/No. 27      July 9, 2007

Klansman convicted in 1964 murder of Black youths
(feature article)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama—Ku Klux Klan member James Seale, 71, was found guilty June 14 in the 1964 murders of Henry Dee and Charles Moore, two young Black men who disappeared May 2 of that year in rural Franklin County, Mississippi. The two were 19 at the time.

Forty-three years after the murders, Seale was finally tried in a U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, on federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges.

The year 1964 was an important one in the mass proletarian movement that eventually brought down Jim Crow segregation in the South. In response to the call for Freedom Summer by civil rights organizations, hundreds of young people, many from northern campuses, came to Mississippi to aid in the fight of Blacks to win voting rights and to break down other segregationist barriers. In response, the Mississippi White Knights (as the local KKK was known) burned 64 crosses on a single April evening throughout the state. By June, the group had established 29 chapters, recruited thousands of members, and launched a rearguard campaign of violence and intimidation against civil rights fighters.

By the end of the summer, 80 people had been beaten, 35 shot at, 5 murdered, and more than 20 Black churches burned to the ground in the state. Among the victims were Freedom Summer volunteers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who were murdered by the Klan near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in June. In 2005, Mississippi Klansman Edgar Killen was finally convicted in those deaths.

The bodies of Dee and Moore, who had gone missing in May, were found in July during the massive search for the bodies of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman.

The prosecution’s main witness was Charles Edwards, a confessed Klansman who belonged, along with Seale, to a Klan chapter led by Seale’s father. He agreed to testify against Seale after being granted immunity.

Seale and Edwards picked up Dee and Moore, who were hitchhiking, and drove them to the Homochitto National Forest where he and other Klansmen beat them unconscious, then drove them to an old channel of the Mississippi River in nearby Tallulah, Louisiana. There they tossed them into the river, bound and weighed down with a car engine block.

Moore was home from college after being suspended for taking part in a student protest. Dee worked in a local lumber yard.

Edwards and Seale were arrested in 1964 for the murders but were released by local officials and never stood trial. Edwards gave the FBI a statement at the time that said the Klan suspected the two young men of being Black Muslims plotting an armed uprising of local Blacks.

In many of the civil rights-era murders that have been brought to trial in recent years, the unrelenting pressure of victims’ family members were key in finally forcing the government to take action. Thomas Moore, 62, brother of Charles Moore, has been fighting for years to have the case reopened. He was present in the Jackson courtroom, along with other family members of Dee and Moore, as well as family members of other victims of Klan violence from that struggle.
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