Sunday, 18 January 2009

Nameless Bodies You Will Find

It was the wrong body. The finding of a negro male was noted and forgotten. The search was not for him. The search was for two white youths and their negro friend.

--CBC documentary, 1964
While the FBI searched for the bodies of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in 1964 (the infamous "Mississippi Burning" case), they uncovered the bodies of two black youths who had been murdered in a separate crime. Underlining the racial element to the two cases, the former case with two of the victims being white, received major media attention, while the latter was soon forgotten. Phil Ochs wrote of the latter in "Here's to the State of Mississippi": "If you drag her muddy rivers, nameless bodies you will find." The case was the subject of the documentary film Mississippi Cold Case.

From Democracy Now (September 10, 2008):

Here in the United States, a federal appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former Ku Klux Klan member sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of two black teenagers in 1964. James Ford Seale was convicted last year after the case was reopened after more than four decades. He was first arrested shortly after the killings, but the charges were thrown out after the FBI turned the case over to local authorities. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel ruled Seale should never have been tried, because a five-year statute of limitations on kidnapping-related charges had expired. Seale had been thought dead but was discovered by the brother of one of the victims. During the trial, Seale’s cousin Charles Marcus Edwards testified he and Seale had abducted and attacked the black teenagers. Edwards said Seale and other Klansmen then drove the teenagers across the Louisiana border. They put duct tape over their mouths and dumped them into the Mississippi River alive. The victims, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, were both nineteen years old. Their bodies were found about two months later, when authorities were conducting an intensive search for slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.


Cypher Blueman said...

tnk, I met Phil Ochs in Canton, Mississippi in the summer of 1964. He sang with other performers passing through the various projects. I was recently trying to remember what songs he might performed that day, and that's what drew me to your site. Plenty of interesting books on the site also.

Cypher Bluman

tnk said...

Wow, that's great. I think I've only read one firsthand account of him playing in Mississippi. Some of the songs he performed around the same time included Talking Birmingham Jam, Do What I Have To Do, Links On The Chain, Power And The Glory, The Thresher, Old Concepts Never Die, Hands, Lou Marsh, Firehouse 35, The Hills Of West Virginia, The Highwayman, What's That I Hear, Another Country, Ballad Of Billie Sol, Celia, Draft Dodger Rag, Automation Song, Paul Crump, Talkin' Cuban Crisis. Most of these songs can be previewed on I don't know if he had written any songs about Mississippi by this point, do you recall?

Cypher Blueman said...

He hadn't at that time is my guess. This would be early in the summer of 1964 as folk singers came to Mississippi after the killings of the three civil rights workers in Neshoba.

I'm writing a book (who isn't) that has a short account of my meeting with Phil Ochs that summer.

tnk said...

I'd like to read it; definitely let me know when you've finished it.