♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> We have told them many a time, they can destroy a man, but they cannot destroy this movement.
We’re more determined than ever that we’re going to rid Natchez of all of the racists, the bigots, the Ku Klux Klan... >> NARRATOR: An extraordinary look at the Civil Rights Era, through rare footage filmed more than 50 years ago.
>> Living in Natchez, everything was separated.
Blacks was on one side.
Whites was on the other side.
>> This is your America!
We’re not going to let them take over our country!
>> We used to have a saying, “the police and the Klan go hand-in-hand.” And that was real clear in Mississippi during that time.
>> NARRATOR: A little-known black resistance group... >> Repeat your name.
>> Wharlest Jackson.
>> You began to see the Deacons out in front protecting demonstrations, protecting Black leaders, protecting the community.
>> NARRATOR: A wave of racist murders... >> The bomb slaying of Civil Rights Leader, Wharlest Jackson.
>> I heard the explosion.
My mind went, “What is that?” I’d never heard anything like that before.
>> There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of these crimes that were never brought to justice.
>> NARRATOR: The ongoing Federal effort to resolve them.
>> A new bill before Congress proposes the creation of special units within the FBI and the Justice Department.
>> The Till Act held the promise that we might get to the bottom of some of these cases that had never been solved.
NARRATOR: And a family’s search for answers... >> My mind, even now, sometimes I can’t even think of what happened.
>> Cold cases are really, really hard.
>> I relieve this thing over and over again hoping for some justice.
>> NARRATOR: Now on FRONTLINE, in collaboration with Retro Report - “American Reckoning.” ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> Nearly 1,000 Negroes are marching silently through the center of Natchez protesting the bomb slaying Monday night of civil rights leader, father of five, Wharlest Jackson.
>> Jackson, an official of the local NAACP, had left his new job last night at the Armstrong Rubber Company, presumably en route home.
The cab and the truck were completely demolished.
♪ ♪ >> My father looked out for the Black community in this town, and believe me, this community loved my father.
He was just a god to me.
>> My father sacrificed his life so that we can have a better community and you don't have to be afraid, but will we ever get justice?
>> They've been killing us here for 400 years.
>> It's got to come to a head.
And we sick and tired of that.
We done built this country.
>> The sooner the white people realize that we aren't going nowhere, the better it's going to be for all of us.
(crowd agreeing) Wake up, white people, before it's too late.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> (teaching dance steps) >> This is a close-knit community here in Natchez.
As a kid, family life with me and my sisters, the girls were kind of talkative and whatnot, and I could take so much, but I wanted to get out and ride around the street on my bicycle, see what's going on around town.
We had horses, we had cows, we had goats.
You know, of course, when we killed a hog or something like that, everybody in the community got food, you know what I mean?
And we shared like that out here.
That particular time, my father, you know, he held three jobs trying to supply the needs of a wife with five kids.
>> He was a good man, working, hard-working man.
>> My mom was a caregiver, and she was just a person that would do anything for anybody.
>> One of the jobs she had was at one of the largest antebellum homes in the city of Natchez, as a cook.
>> That's all a lot of Black people did was cook and clean up at the Stanton Hall.
Living in Natchez, everything was separated.
Blacks was on one side.
Whites was on the other side.
>> My mother and father tried to shield us from violence that was going on.
But a lot of violence was going on at that particular time.
>> This public hearing of the United States Commission on Civil Rights will now come to order.
(gavel pounds) >> There have been cross burnings, bombings, church burnings, and killings.
Justice under law is not guaranteed for the Negro in Mississippi in the way that it is for the white man.
>> Southwest Mississippi, Natchez and Concordia Parish in the 1960s were these sort of, like, this frontier region where people still live by vigilantism, and it had never been challenged.
You had a huge Klan population in this area.
And that's the way things were.
(playing bluegrass tune) (crowd cheering, whooping) (song ends, crowd applauds) >> At the time, I didn't really understand that my daddy was in the Klan.
We were kind of made to go to some of the meetings.
We actually-- uh, me and my brothers would, uh, deliver the, the flyers and stuff.
We didn't really understand what was going on, I guess.
(cheers and applause) >> I would first like to state very emphatically, we are Southerners defending our heritage and defending our beliefs.
(cheers and applause) >> My father was James Horace Taylor, Jr. >> The things that set him off, probably more than anything else, was the fact that the Blacks were looking for equal rights.
(cheers and applause) >> We are sick and tired.
We are going through being bit by dogs!
(audience agreeing) Some of 'em being shot down!
(audience agreeing) Some of 'em being beat in jail!
(audience agreeing) We are not fighting back but we going on because there's nothing right here!
(cheers and applause) ♪ ♪ >> We hope to send into Mississippi this summer upwards of 1,000 teachers, ministers, lawyers, and students to try and force, if possible, some real change in this state.
>> Those people have got these youngsters coming into Mississippi not knowing what the situation is.
We are going to see to it that law and order is maintained Mississippi-style.
>> National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have relayed their hearts and minds in a massive voter registration drive.
Each and every one of you that have registered in the last ten days, please stand.
Let's give them a hand.
(audience applauding) >> I remember my momma and my dad was telling us they were forming the NAACP.
They were going to be a part of it.
>> We are here to serve notice on all of those who have been so brutal to us in the past that your day is gone.
(cheers and applause) >> Charles Evers is the NAACP field director in Mississippi.
The man who had the job before him was his brother Medgar, killed in an ambush in Mississippi.
>> After they shot Medgar, I said, "I'm going to Mississippi and kill every cracker until they kill me."
And my wife said, "No, Charles, please."
I said, "Yes, I am."
At that time, you could carry guns, like I always do.
You could carry guns.
>> Do you have a gun right now?
>> Yeah, sure, I keep a gun.
Always, I always keep a gun.
>> Can you show me?
♪ ♪ I brought down my thugs from Chicago.
We were going to start killing white people.
I went to Medgar's office here on Lynch Street, where I finally took over.
I sat there and something, something just came to me, said, "Charles, not that way.
Do it the way Medgar was doing it."
And that's when I went out and helped Jessie Bernard, and Wharlest Jackson, and George Metcalfe to organize the NAACP branch in Natchez.
Metcalfe took on the presidency and Jessie took on the office management.
Wharlest Jackson, he was treasurer.
And they became the leaders.
>> George Metcalfe and Uncle Wharlest were very close.
They would come in and get around the dining room table and start these discussions.
>> George was loud, and Wharlest was quiet, but they both were forceful.
>> Tensions started getting really high in Natchez when the NAACP started growing.
>> You would actually have Klansmen show up and stand outside of their meeting.
One time, it was nightfall.
And following the meeting, we were driving.
We were on a dirt road.
All of a sudden, there were bright lights.
Mr. Metcalfe said, "Don't turn around, don't turn around.
Get on the floor."
The gentleman that was in the front seat pulled out a gun.
Nobody ever turned around to look in the back, but you can see these beaming high-beam lights.
♪ ♪ Uncle Wharlest kept driving.
Finally, the truck turned off.
Not a word was said.
(engine turns off) >> "August 13, 1965.
For the protection of our Negro citizens against the Ku Klux Klan racist group in the Negro area.
As of now, we do not have protection from our local law enforcement, the sheriff, nor the chief of police."
>> We used to have a saying, "The police and the Klan go hand-in-hand."
And that was real clear, uh, in Mississippi during that time.
It was known that there were Klan members in the Natchez Police Department.
Local Black men were tired of it.
>> "The Negro Protection Organization of Adams County..." >> Little louder.
Take the time to read.
>> "Rule one: that is to not break the law, but to make sure the law is enforced upon all citizens to not attack first at any time."
>> The real reason for this is not to stir trouble, not to start trouble, it's to prevent it.
You know the risk that we finna to take, right?
Get out now, because once you're in, there ain't no out, see?
>> Now is the time right now.
(knock at door) >> Huh?
>> It's Wharlest Jackson.
>> How you all doing?
How you doing?
>> My pa was a very courageous man.
He was a decorated Korean War veteran.
We weren't a family of fear.
>> Where you work?
>> I work at Armstrong.
>> Now, where do you live?
What section of town do you live in?
>> I live right on North Union.
>> North Union?
>> So we might make your house communication house.
We got to have some communication homes, you know, resident.
So, we like for you to attend our meeting, uh, in a night that you off, you understand?
Now, who want to be first man?
Left hand, both knees on the floor.
Repeat after me.
>> I do.
>> Solemnly swear.
>> Solemnly swear.
>> My own free will.
>> My own free will.
>> Until... >> Until... >> The end... >> The end... >> Of my life.
>> Of my life.
>> Repeat your name.
>> Wharlest Jackson.
>> Wharlest Jackson.
>> I do solemnly swear.
>> I do solemnly swear.
>> My own free will.
>> My own free will.
>> That I will not.
>> That I will not.
>> Or invade.
♪ ♪ >> "For the School Board for the Natchez Adams County Public Schools, the undersigned hereby petition your board to initiate racial desegregation of the public schools under your jurisdiction and control."
>> By late August, the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the schools for desegregation.
>> "We would further request that the names of these, of those signing this petition not be made public in order to protect the signers from possible reprisals and harassment."
>> There was a, a fear and a resentment of desegregation of the schools at the time in the white community.
There was just wild rumors of what was going to happen if the Blacks took over.
♪ ♪ >> George Metcalfe, president of the Natchez chapter of the NAACP, was critically injured in Natchez this afternoon when dynamite hidden beneath the hood of his car exploded when he turned on the ignition.
♪ ♪ >> When the bomb went off on the hood of his vehicle, a lot of that metal and brass just went back into his face.
>> After the bombing of Metcalfe's car, the Black community explodes.
(telephones ringing) >> Yeah.
Get that phone, somebody.
What is happening is that the people are arming themselves, it's true, but tonight, people just want to serve notice on the city, that's all.
We just gonna let these people know we tired.
(telephone ringing) We have mass meeting tonight, Friday, August 27, 1965.
Place: 9 St. Catherine.
Time: 6:30 p.m. Purpose: protest Ku Klux Klan violence.
>> ♪ You can kill my body but not my soul ♪ >> ♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ >> Are you ready?
>> (cheering) >> Let Natchez know you're ready!
>> (cheering) >> George is not in good condition.
As we have told them many a time, they can destroy a man, but they cannot destroy this movement.
Didn't do a thing but made us more determined.
(cheers and applause) We're more determined than ever that we're going to rid Natchez of all of the racists, the bigots, the Ku Klux Klan, and you going to do your job as police officers and as mayor of our city or else.
Now, you figure out what "else" is.
>> (applauding) >> I'm going to stay here, man, and do whatever I can for freedom.
If I have to die for it, man.
>> After George Metcalfe is car-bombed, enter James Jackson, who is the cool street dude, dark glasses.
>> Hey, man.
>> Tall, dark, and handsome.
>> Who's your favorite movie star?
>> Hey, baby.
>> James Jackson was a local barber.
Very charismatic, always with his gun to his side.
>> The community's angry.
The whole idea of nonviolence is out the window.
>> The quickest way to freedom is to meet violence with violence.
>> Violence with violence!
>> This is a powder keg, man, and tonight, tonight, the fuse is going to be lit.
>> On the day after that bomb explosion of George, five young men made a trip to Bogalusa, Louisiana.
They had heard about the Deacons.
>> The Deacons first started in Louisiana.
They clashed with the police as they openly practiced armed self-defense.
It got national attention.
♪ ♪ >> We decide to drive to Bogalusa and ask them how they got organized.
We got there about, maybe about 1:00 that night.
They sent us down a back road to find them.
We was surrounded by Blacks like I don't know what.
Shotgun all in my nose like that through the door.
James Jackson, he got out of the car and went with them.
When they came back about an hour or so later, they gave us guns.
Then we came on back here.
>> This is your America!
This is your land!
We are not going to be run out of our own country by a bunch of cannibals and savages, and we're not going to let the Defense-- what's the name of those niggers?
(laughing, cheering) We're not going to let them take over our country!
>> Natchez and the other side of the Mississippi River probably had the largest Klan group per capita in the United States, but, you know, they were afraid of the Deacons.
They didn't know what they were dealing with.
>> See, they thought it was 500 of us.
Starting off, wasn't but five of us.
>> These Deacons for Defense, we know who they are, and I'm sure that they know who I am.
But one thing I can say for every white man that dies at the hand of these filthy mobs, there are going to be hundreds of those no-good African jungle bunnies that's going to go down in the streets.
(cheers and applause) ♪ ♪ >> I had a lot of fear.
I was expecting to have another Civil War.
>> The Klan had signs saying, "The Klan is watching you."
And they would have signs saying, "The Deacons are watching you."
>> Now, I mean, I'm as afraid as the next man.
I'm scared, man, you know?
But you got a time set to die.
Like Metcalfe got, car got blowed all to pieces, man.
He's still alive.
So you don't die until your time comes.
By taking a risk, man, that don't mean that you going to get hurt.
You know what I mean?
>> There's not many of us, but if we're together, just like a fist, man, just like a fist, you know, we can be stronger than we can if you, if you just come out open like this, you know?
>> You began to see the Deacons out in front protecting demonstrations, protecting Black leaders, protecting the community.
♪ ♪ >> The white people were concerned when they saw the Black people carrying guns.
They knew about the so-called Deacons for Defense.
It was, I'm sure, very frightening to a whole lot of them.
>> As a little girl participating in the marches, just seeing how they were throwing stuff at us, calling us niggers, it was just ugly.
>> If they were out there marching, and some white boy wanted to break in there to jump on somebody, we grabbed them and stomped them to the ground.
>> With the Deacons, you had a rhetoric that was different from previous rhetoric, you know, you would hear from Martin Luther King and others in the nonviolent aspect of the movement.
(object bangs) (crowd shouting) >> I believe, just like Martin Luther King, everybody else, I believe in nonviolence, you know?
On the other hand, I believe that our people should stop getting killed, you know.
>> Self-defense is a longer tradition that goes on in Black communities from our inception, right?
>> I go to a meeting of the Deacons for Defense and observed the fact that they needed more weapons, so I invite Dip here, along with a spokesperson for the Deacons named James Stokes, to California.
>> Boxley introduced me to different organizations.
>> We told them about what was going on down here in Natchez, and they gave us guns.
And they gave us money.
>> When they came back, they had the capacity to hit the street immediately to checkmate the Klan.
(crowd humming) >> Yes.
>> Yes, Lord.
>> The Black community, they are out by the hundreds to demonstrate, protest, and they have these demands that they're giving to the city council and the mayor.
>> They're very simple.
We have 12 of them.
End police brutality.
♪ ♪ Denounce the Ku Klux Klan.
Desegregate all public facilities and public accommodations.
Hire Negroes in all the downtown stores.
We're going to continue to protest until we get some of our requests.
>> This is what we want.
We want to know, what can you do about them?
That's what I thought.
>> I think one important area that we're forgetting, and that's the equal distribution of tax funds, which are public... >> When the negotiating group was selected by Charles Evers, he only selected Black males.
They ignored the contributions of Black women.
>> See, very honestly, it's these ladies, it's people like Mrs. Duncan, Mrs. Jackson, they are the people who are really getting the job done around here.
>> No, you got the wrong... >> Sure... >> It's not who gets the job done, it's the one who can represent... >> Okay, now, nobody was being arrested out on a picket line, and the men, the ladies were the ones who fought off those dogs.
I don't wanna.
>> (whistling, shouting) >> Okay.
This is a declaration of the Negro citizens of Natchez, Mississippi.
The United States... >> The mayor rejected all of the demands.
>> The announcement is that the city has rejected every one of these demands!
Rejected every one!
>> Here is a news bulletin from WNAT.
The mayor and board of aldermen of the City of Natchez, at a special meeting this afternoon, has taken strong action to preserve peace and order in Natchez by passing a resolution invoking a citywide curfew.
>> To try to prevent demonstrations and marches, the governor called in the National Guard.
(helicopter flying overhead) >> You tell the good mayor that I said he can get all that injunction, conjunction, and some junction he wanna get... >> (laughing) >> We're not going to spend our money with them anymore.
Until he hire people and give them decent jobs and recognize them as individuals and human beings.
>> (applauding) >> We decided we going to boycott every white store in Natchez.
>> Downtown Natchez is under a strict boycott by nearly half the population.
The boycott began when the Negroes failed to get their 12 demands from city officials.
>> The mayor at the time had a whole shopping center, Mayor Nosser.
We shut his whole damn shopping center down.
>> Keep the white man's dollar out of his pocket, and you can control him, instead of him controlling you.
>> You would walk down the little downtown area, and the storekeepers, they've got comments.
"I've always been good to you."
This would be the kind of statements, and they couldn't understand it.
>> Mrs. Meryl Shote has run a dress shop in Natchez for 27 years.
So how would you assess the effect of the boycott on your store?
>> Well, they haven't boycotted me, they only boycotted Natchez.
And when they did that, well, we all are suffering.
>> Having a family department store that was owned by my mother and two uncles, we all wondered why we were, why we were picked on.
>> I want every man in here to stand up.
(people murmuring) If the children can walk the line, you can protect them.
(people applauding) >> My mother and father told me the stores they were boycotting.
"We don't want you to go in there, we don't want you to spend your money in there."
As a boy, I didn't quite understand it then.
>> The Negroes meet nightly to work on enforcing the boycott until the whites give in or cave in.
>> We mean, don't break our boycott.
We're not talking to white folks, we talking to Negroes, our folks.
We have a right to discipline our people.
(cheers and applause) >> A lot of Blacks gonna ignore us.
I mean, this is for your freedom.
There was one old preacher, "You don't tell me where I can shop."
I said, "Get him."
♪ ♪ Deacons for Defense was our security force, our enforcers.
>> These enforcing squads would punish people who were going to break a boycott.
>> James Jackson, a lot of people feared him.
I remember, a lot of people feared him, they said, you know, he was a big man and they did not mess with Big Jack.
That's what they called him, Big Jack.
>> Everyday, I... ♪ ♪ >> A lot of them went to jail back then, I remember.
♪ ♪ >> The whites just weren't going to give in.
Come on with it, then.
You know what we want.
Now, we in a serious business.
We out fighting for the things we've been denied so long.
>> The First Amendment give us the rights to peacefully protest anything that we think is wrong.
Now, we're going to do that.
We're going to march in this city until the mayor and the board of aldermen and the rest of those who have been keeping us down so long open the doors to all the people.
(cheers and applause) How many of y'all going with me tonight?
(crowd cheering) Stand up, how many going with me?
(crowd cheering) >> My mama, she used to say my dad asked her not to go to the march.
But she was one of the ones, she went anyway.
My mom was just like my daddy.
"I'm going to do what I need to do to help this community."
>> Keep going, don't gang up now, keep going, will you?
(crowd chanting) >> There are these marches at night that are taking place.
300 marchers are arrested for parading without a permit.
>> I'm the chief of police, J.T.
If you don't disperse and go home, I would have to put you under arrest, parading without a permit, which is in violation of the city ordinances.
>> There's another attempt to march.
150 are arrested.
And then yet another march is attempted.
>> Get back on the other side, please!
(people shouting) (crowd shouting, chanting) (crowd shouting) ♪ ♪ >> Once they're at Parchman, it's cold, they were stripped naked, they were given a laxative.
>> No toilet paper was given to them, nothing like that.
They sprayed water on them in the cells so they froze.
>> It was torture to the highest extent.
>> I went up there, me and the other two Deacons, we hung around on the outside of Parchman, trying to peep in and see what was going on, da da da.
Well, you couldn't see, because they had dogs running around, but we wanted to let them, let somebody know, let them know that we was there.
>> Of course.
>> They give us no explanation about why they taking our clothes.
They just stripped us naked... (dog barks) ...and said we were marching against good white people.
♪ ♪ (birds twittering) >> After the article came out in the paper about the people being sent to Parchman, some of the guys I played tennis with asked me, said, "Did that really happen in Natchez?"
And I said, "Yeah, that's those pictures, you know, are here in Natchez."
♪ ♪ >> I think most white people, to be honest, sort of turned the head the other way.
"Maybe it'll go away if we don't say anything."
>> In response to the boycott, six white businesses closed within weeks.
Christmas shopping season is coming up.
The white commercial group convinces Mayor Nosser and the aldermen to negotiate.
>> They surrender.
They give in to the 12 demands.
>> Well, to start with, I wouldn't call them any concessions.
I think it's a matter of, of getting together and trying to solve our differences and agree on something.
>> By using armed resistance, Deacons for Defense and Justice, and enforcing that boycott, that wore down the Jim Crow white supremacy leadership and structure of Natchez.
>> I feel that this, I've been in many demonstrations and many protests, and I feel that this-- if it's carried through, and we hope it will be carried through-- has been the greatest concession that has been granted to any civil rights organizations in any section of this country.
>> As a result of the agreement that was reached, 23 white-owned businesses agreed that they would hire Black employees, six Black police officers were hired.
>> Put your hand in the air, look like a revolution.
>> Several public institutions were desegregated.
>> It's the best thing that ever could have happened.
(music playing loudly) >> The Klan was shocked to see how, instead of making the Black community afraid, the bombing simply made them more resolved.
>> Mr. Mayor, do you anticipate any violent reaction from Ku Klux Klan or any other organizations as a response to the concessions?
>> No, I don't.
(thunder rumbling) >> Back then, my dad worked three jobs.
I remember him working at Holsum Bakery.
>> You know, he was a barber, he cut hair.
>> And at Armstrong Tire and Rubber.
He had the overnight shift.
>> After my mom got arrested in the '60s and went to Parchman, she came down with lupus disease.
>> She was sick a lot.
My dad would step in, comb our hair, take us to school, cook.
He could cook, too.
>> He wasn't a great cook, but we had to eat whatever he fixed.
(laughs) >> Some days when he'd comb our hair, it was interesting.
(laughs) >> George Metcalfe is president of the Natchez branch of the NAACP.
>> After Metcalfe was injured, he didn't have anybody, so Wharlest and Exerlena cared for him.
>> George Metcalfe worked at the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company along with my father.
They rode together to work every day.
>> He was like his provider.
>> At Armstrong, as a result of the Civil Rights Act, all of the plants now are under directive from the federal government to, they open up different jobs to Blacks, and so this new job comes open.
It was not a desirable job, as far as the work was concerned, but it was a desirable job because of the money.
Jackson applied for it, and I think 122 people at the plant were eligible for that position, but he had more experience than anybody, and he got the job.
>> He did tell me about, they going to promote him, and they talked to me about it, and I agreed with what they wanted, "Do what you got to do."
And I always felt like the Negroes should have the same opportunity anyone else.
And if you're at the plant and there's a opportunity, a position come open and they offer, you take it.
>> My mom was real worried about my dad.
She was almost, you know, like in a nervous frenzy, every time my dad would leave and go off to work.
>> Jackson had a whole lot of things going against him.
He was involved in civil rights... (people talking in background) ...he rode to work with George Metcalfe, and he took a job that for the history of Armstrong Tire Company had only belonged to a white man.
>> You hear a lot of grown people telling my dad to be careful.
And my dad always said, "Don't worry," he'll be back.
(people cheer) >> I stood right here working on my bicycle in front of my house.
I was trying to get my banana seat right and I had a big, nice big fat tire on the back of it.
I used to see those guys riding those choppers.
Man, I wanted to make my bike like that, too, a little 20-inch bicycle.
I heard the explosion.
My mind went, "What is that?"
I'd never heard anything like that before.
I jumps on my bicycle.
I shot right down there and shot straight to this here, street here.
You can look straight down the street to MLK.
♪ ♪ I'm, I'm noticing people outside of their houses, you know, and I just rode up there and start looking at it.
♪ ♪ I saw a gentleman laying in the the street.
Not knowing who he was, and seeing the truck, knowing who truck that was, and not being able to connect the dots together.
I saw a shoe that he was wearing.
And I grabbed that shoe and came to the house.
And later, I heard from my mother as I grew up, I had come back with his flesh in his shoe.
>> When the explosion happened, I was in the kitchen.
And you can hear all the sirens.
You know, you could see the lights.
>> My mom, when she heard that sound, she said, "That's your daddy.
Before she could finish saying it, they were knocking on the door letting her know that was my daddy.
>> My mind, even now, even, sometimes I can't even think of what happened.
I get pieces of it at times.
I relive this thing over and over again, and have been doing it for years.
Hoping for some justice.
♪ ♪ >> Chief, from your preliminary investigation, can you tell us the sequence of events that led to this, uh... >> Well, um, last night, uh, during a heavy downpour rain, Wharlest Jackson, I understand he, he went on a new job yesterday.
He got off at 8:01 at Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company.
And, uh, apparently, he had driven this far before the explosion.
We are running down any leads.
We're, we're going to interview everyone on, everybody on this street.
And, uh, we're getting them dust now for fingerprints.
Then we're, got these bomb experts coming in.
>> You expect an arrest in this one?
>> I'm hoping so.
(birds twittering) ♪ ♪ >> It's a terrible feeling to know that someone that you'd been so close with had been killed maybe because of something you helped them to do.
It hurt-- still does.
>> You said then that the, that the headquarters of the Klan here in Adams County is here at Armstrong, is that right?
>> Well, I didn't say the headquarters, I mean, this is a hotbed up here at Armstrong.
That's why we're asking that the, we boycott Armstrong until they can get these un-American people out of here.
Then that'll cease to have these bombings and killings that's destroying Negroes.
This look like one here, too, this old green jacket on.
He looks like one of them.
They call him Big Red Murry.
Murry, two brothers.
The one with the brown was the one that worked with Jackson.
>> We citizens of our beloved Natchez, Mississippi, have gathered here tonight to call upon the officials of the United States government to apprehend, charge, try, convict, and punish... >> Amen!
>> ...those responsible.
>> (cheering and applauding) >> By the mid-'60s, the federal government realized we have this problem in Southwest Mississippi, and something is always flaming up.
>> We may as well start... (motorcycle revving loudly) ♪ ♪ (people talking indistinctly) >> Y'all be quiet a minute!
>> They had pistols?
>> Clear the traffic.
>> Come on out, we'll get him.
(car horn beeps) >> Until the FBI figure out who is committing these murders, this is gonna continue.
(metal jangling) They flood, I think all together, there's 180 agents in Natchez.
They give it a code name, "Wharbom."
>> The FBI came in in droves.
Everybody knew who they were, because their cars didn't have FBI on them, but they had so many antennas, you knew who they were, and they're all dressed in suits.
It was very strange to, to me that it was all focused right here on, on Natchez.
>> Well, I got to the crime scene the second day.
(camera shutter clicks) There were no fingerprints that were distinguishable.
Fingerprints are usually very traceable in a vehicle, but this one had so much powder, so much dust, so much residue from the blast, that there was nothing distinguishable as far as prints were concerned.
They were looking for blasting caps, explosives.
We, we tried to trace all of that.
We had to find out when and where a bomb had been placed underneath his vehicle.
I think we talked to two gas station owners and a repair shop.
That all came up a big negative.
All we could do is try to talk to people and see who may have seen something or heard something.
>> Now, listen good.
We talked to the, to some of the officials of the FBI, and they have assured us that they have done everything to investigate and try to apprehend these murderers.
>> On one hand, Black citizens wanted the protection that our government could bring to bear.
At the same time, there was a great deal of distrust.
>> I remember them coming by, sitting there telling my mom, you know, "We're still gathering information, we doing interviews," and stuff like that, but they never had nothing positive to tell her, never gave her any hope.
(people talking in background) >> J.T.
Robinson, chief of police.
I think he had a good working relationship with the FBI, but he felt like it was not particularly his case as much as it was the FBI's case.
>> What I want to say is, I was elected chief of police not for the white community or the colored community.
It was, it was for the city of Natchez.
During all of our racial strife that we had when Mr. Metcalfe was bombed, we worked around the clock.
And the relations I have, I've thought have been real good here, here as late.
As long as I'm the chief of police, I'm going to do what's right for the community.
(men laughing in distance) >> The reason Black people in Natchez have such a problem with J.T.
is over Parchman.
That's something I think that forever marked him with the Black community in Natchez.
>> You got the mayor, the top official, and he stood up and made his statement.
See, they say, "We're going to try to do."
But we ain't coming with that trying, this is a must-done!
>> The response in terms of the Black community is helplessness.
>> Everybody's scared, too.
They haven't caught anybody for all this bombing and all this whupping and stuff, man.
They haven't caught anybody.
>> Wasn't nothing you could do.
You wasn't the law, you had to wait for the decision of the FBI's.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> Mr. Charles Evers.
(audience applauding) (applause stops) >> (tapping pulpit) (sighs) Uh... To the ministers... To all the people of the audience.
I don't know how many more times we have to do this.
Frankly, I really don't know what to say.
There's no law, no protection against if you're a Negro.
And you live in a state where, since my brother was killed three years ago, 41 Negroes, including our own, has given his life.
And all Mr. Jackson was guilty of, he wanted a job to make it better for his wife and five children.
That's all he wanted.
And yet they say, "Negroes, please be patient."
How long do you want us to be patient?
And then you wonder, what kind of justice are we having?
What kind of country is this?
(crowd murmuring) >> America can no longer stand for this.
Uh, we had four little girls killed in Birmingham.
We had Medgar Evers assassinated in Jackson, and we had a man killed in, in Natchez, Mississippi.
>> We know what happened to civil rights workers.
We know what happened to Negroes in Mississippi.
Sometime you find them in the river, sometime you find them hanging from trees, and sometime you don't find them.
I was very young when I heard about what happened to Emmett Till.
I remember seeing the open casket.
And I was moved to try to do something about it.
Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act is being considered today.
There are hundreds, maybe even thousand, of these crimes that were never brought to justice.
There are murderers who have walked free for decades.
The blood of hundreds of innocent men and women is calling out to us.
>> It pierced my soul to see him take his last breath in my arms.
>> The life was taken just for nothing.
>> It's something I, I don't guess you ever get over.
>> We were a lost family.
>> Whites could get away with anything.
>> And I guess we're supposed to just sweep all that up under the rug.
>> I can't go through one day... >> All white male jury... >> That's what it felt like.
(voices overlapping) >>...and it will be there until I close my eyes for the last time.
>> There was individuals that said, "This is old, how can we go back?"
And we had to argue, we must go back.
For the sake of justice, for the sake of closure, the 110th Congress must pass this legislation.
We must do something to right these wrongs.
>> When they introduced the Emmett Till Act, I remember hearing it on the news.
>> Murders that were once ignored or under-investigated during the Civil Rights Era are finally getting more attention.
A new bill before Congress proposes the creation of special units within the FBI and the Justice Department.
These units would investigate cold cases... >> As far as people coming in and, and trying to dredge up and talk about the murders and things that took place, I think a lot of people say, "Why bring it up again?"
It's just, it's something that happened in the past and they want to get over it.
>> They started naming all these different cases.
It was, like, "Wow, somebody actually trying to do something after 40 years?"
♪ ♪ >> I began to lead the initiative in December of 2008.
When I started, it was so hard to overcome that lack of trust between the victims' families and all of law enforcement.
My name is Cynthia Deitle.
>> In a town hall meeting, Cynthia Deitle tried to shake out some new leads, but there were some in the audience who think that the initiative is little more than public relations.
>> There's been nothing did.
And I hate to say things like this, because the FBI is the only help I got.
>> Cold cases are really, really, really hard.
>> We're talking about cases that are 30, 40 years old.
Evidence does disappear.
I think the Till Act certainly raised expectations.
I think anyone who is looking for answers about, uh, a family member who has died thinks that, you know, "This is my chance to get answers."
(birds chirping) (knock at door) >> Good morning.
>> Hi, good morning, how you doing?
>> All right, Denise Ford.
>> Good to see you, good to see you, Ms. Ford, how you doing?
I'm John Lewis.
>> Come on in.
>> Hi, how you doing?
>> John Lewis, it's a pleasure.
>> Good to see you.
>> It's a pleasure and an honor, nice to meet you, Wharlest Jackson.
>> Good to see you, brother.
Good to see you.
>> Let me ask you a question.
What more... You know, just for our case, we see after 50 years, a lot of these people are dead.
>> So how can we bring closure?
How can we, I mean, what can we do through this bill?
>> Well, we need to continue to investigate, 'cause it could be family members of some of the people who committed these unbelievable acts of violence still living, walking around every single day.
>> I worked right beside of a KK's, one of the KK members' daughter-in-law.
>> I'm quite sure that someone knows something.
>> And for them to not have come forth after all these years, it's just, it's unbearable.
>> A lot of families that suffered during that period, I honestly believe a lot of them still got a lot of anger in them.
And, and I can use my brother as an example.
He's still got a lot of hurt.
>> I know what you've been through.
What happened in Natchez and other parts of the South was vicious, sick, and just wrong.
I remember the first time I came to this state, members of the Klan attacked us when we tried to enter a so-called white waiting room, and left us lying in a pool of blood.
And a lot of the people, they knew what was happening, and they looked the other way.
So I think they have to come forward, people who know something.
>> I find nothing greater to live for than to see justice into, in not only my father's case, but other cases.
For years and for years, no one could find no information on my father's murder in this town.
>> Okay, brother.
>> But then someone comes along and give you hope.
(birds chirping) (keyboard clacking) >> Being a white person, I had never heard of many of these murders in my whole life.
And I got to thinking, you know, if I didn't know anything about it, particularly working at a newspaper, I doubt-- most people did not.
I wanted to find out what happened.
>> The Till Act held the promise that we might get to the bottom of some of these cases that had never been solved.
We got our hands on the Wharbom files by initially filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
I went down to Washington, D.C., we went down to the archives, and there was a cart that came out and just had several boxes of information on this investigation of the Wharlest Jackson case.
We were sharing information with Stanley, he was sharing information with us.
>> The more you read, the more fascinated you get, then you feel like you're looking into a window of time.
Armstrong was filled with many Klansmen.
There was talk going around and threats made.
>> Janitor Alfred Whitley from Natchez, a center of Klan activity, told how a gang of hooded men took him to a swamp one night last year, stripped him naked, and whipped him.
They rolled out two bull whips.
And said, "You hear this?"
>> Whitley had never tried to register to vote, never was involved in civil rights work, said he recognized one car of that of a white fellow employee, figured he was beaten because of something he must've said at work.
>> The Armstrong Rubber Company emphatically and unequivocally denies that it has any knowledge of any Ku Klux Klan activity on the part of any of its employees while employed by the company.
>> Sir, you seem to be saying, then, that you do not believe that this man's death was attributed to the fact that he started a new job that very morning that been held previously by a white man.
Is that what you're saying?
>> I am not a law officer or a detective, but I, in my own belief, do not believe that this is the prime cause of this man's death.
>> White denial is as strong as anything we've got out there.
>> There were some known Klansmen who worked in the plant at that time.
Did you know who some of those people were?
When you would look, you would say, "Well, that's..." >> Yeah, I knew who a bunch of them were.
>> How many would you say there were, as far as, like, that you could say were in the Klan at that time?
>> Active, probably 30 or so.
>> 30 or so?
Do you recall or did you ever see any harassment on either side?
>> Not that I can ever remember.
They were always just, you know, just pulling pranks on each other, and...
It was nothing with animosity in it, it was just fooling.
>> There was some Klan activity in Natchez, but it looked like a bunch of people running around in sheets to me, and I didn't think it was that serious.
(shouting) I ended up having a couple of friends in it that I didn't know were in it at the time.
The Grand Wizard of the White Knights was going by the name of E.L. McDaniel.
>> And I say that it is not violence when we protect ourselves.
>> And I didn't know who it was until they marched downtown and they said, "That's E.L. McDaniel there."
I said, "That's Eddy."
I've known Eddy all, all my life.
I said, "What's he doing out there?"
>> Early on, when I started working on all of these cases, I had never dealt with the FBI or the D.O.J.
in my whole life.
I initially began to write stories and the FBI was reading the material, and agents would occasionally stop by and ask me to share things.
I would share, "Well, this person lives here," and, "I found this guy," or whatever, and I would have questions for them.
Oh, good morning, Mr. Perez, how are you doing?
(voiceover): And they never answered any of my questions.
All right, sir.
And I mean, I suppose by the same token, you couldn't comment on a potential motive or, or if you have a suspect?
>> No, I really can't comment.
I appreciate the question, but when we have an active investigation, we can't comment.
>> What's hard is, Stanley can give me stuff.
I can't give anything to Stanley.
That doesn't go both ways.
>> It's the way things, unfortunately, are done at the Justice Department.
It really doesn't matter who you are, you don't get additional information.
>> Okay, bye-bye.
(replaces receiver) Finally, I found an FBI agent named John Pfeifer, who was here for ten years back during that era.
It took a year or two for him to get to know me and to trust me.
He told me what they decided to do.
"We're going to get the name of every known Klansman we can find.
We're going to assign two agents.
We're going to surveil them and we're going to follow them, and we're going to make their life miserable until we figure out what was going on."
>> Every day I came home, there would be an FBI agent sitting in front of my house.
We were coached on how to talk with the FBI agents.
We were always told to give an answer they wanted to hear, not the truth.
>> There were a number of informants that the FBI had in the Klan in that region.
>> They began to learn from different people that there was this Klan within the Klan called the Silver Dollar Group.
>> And they all carried a silver dollar with their birth year on it.
>> I think my dad was probably on the foundation of the formation of the Silver Dollar Club.
We would go in a restaurant and there would be several people sitting in there, and my dad walked up and he dropped a silver dollar on the table and says, "Does that have a familiar ring to it?"
And the guy sitting at the table said, "Yeah, that sounds like freedom."
>> I don't know how to term them, and this is, like, a crude term, but if you had a, an all-star Klan team, that would be it, they would be in the Pro Bowl.
A Silver Dollar Group member would be the kind of guy that thought wearing a robe was silly, who thought burning crosses was silly, who rejected the old Klan because they weren't achieving anything.
>> In the record, you would have some of these members of the Silver Dollar Group going back and forth across the Mississippi River, supporting each other with these very nefarious activities.
>> They were very quick to extreme violence.
They felt very comfortable slaughtering people and knowing they could get away with it.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (birds chirping) >> Red Glover, this man that worked at Armstrong, where, where Metcalfe and Jackson both worked, he was the number-one leader of the Silver Dollar Group.
John Pfeifer was the first agent to interview him after the Wharlest Jackson murder.
Did he come off as, like, an an angry person or just a...?
>> No, no, no, no.
It was someone who was in absolute, total emotional control of himself.
>> You know, as if he's studying you.
Keeping his mouth shut.
>> Sonny Taylor, who was a Silver Dollar guy, Sonny said Red picked him up one day, and they go out to an old farmhouse and they go up in the attic and they pull out boxes, and there is a child's toy drum.
And in that toy drum is primer cord, material like that.
And Sonny says, "Well, where are you going?
You want me to go help you unload this?"
And said Red said, no, he'd take care of it.
>> Oh, yeah.
I mean, he would not trust anybody.
>> Well, do you feel like he, he did that bombing all by himself without lookouts or anything?
>> Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
>> At some point in 1967, after the bombing happened, Sonny Taylor became an FBI informant.
He has been with Glover when Glover is moving bombs around.
He provided them a good bit of information.
Sonny had even implicated himself in the George Metcalfe bombing.
He says to the FBI, "You give me immunity in this Metcalfe case, I'll deliver you enough information you can put Glover away."
>> You had informants with the FBI back into the '60s say, "I can tell you who killed all these people."
But that informant was so bad, that he almost becomes not credible.
Red Glover, there was so much circumstantial evidence that showed that he was involved in the Wharlest Jackson murder, in other murders, but the FBI at the time had zero hard evidence to bring before a grand jury.
That was the problem.
They had nothing to go on besides, "I know you did it-- I know you did it."
♪ ♪ >> I heard my mother ask the FBI agents for information all the time.
She literally begged them for information on my father's case.
>> Nobody actually openly came out and said, "We know who did it."
>> She was looking for some answers.
And she dead and gone, and still no answers.
>> Since my mother passed, my sister and I have requested information from the FBI concerning my father's death.
They only said things that upsetted me worse about my father's case.
One FBI agent even asked me, do I know who killed my father?
Who do I think killed my father?
Then I had another tell me, "Go to Stanley Nelson."
Stanley Nelson has produced a lot of information on my father's case.
>> All right, haven't seen you in a while, good to see you.
>> Same here, same here.
>> How you doing, man?
>> Good, good, thank God for you.
>> Eight years now we've been working on these cases.
So what I thought I'd do today, I kinda wanted to tell you what I found out about the Silver Dollar Group and about your dad's, the bombing, and just share with you what, what I believe happened based on the documents and the interviews that I've, that I've done.
You know, he wasn't just a chance victim.
All these people had been murdered before him.
All these beatings and all these bombings and all these arsons, and he knew that.
And he knew when he took that job what he faced.
So on this February day in '67, it's raining.
It's rained all day long.
At some point, everyone in the know believes that it was Glover, he slips up under that car, and he has these C4 explosives.
And he wires that bomb to the left turn signal of Jackson's car, because when Jackson left, he is going to leave the plant, take a right turn onto Minor Street, and as he gets to a certain point on Minor Street, he's going to turn on his left blinker.
Usually, at the point he would turn on that left signal, he would be right in the middle of a Black neighborhood, where more than likely, children would be running around and playing.
But it just so happened that he got called into overtime, and so it was 8:00 at night and no one was on the street.
Turns that left blinker, blows him out of the car, and he dies right there on the street.
He was a courageous man.
Imagine if you were the person that took that job, this white-- it had always been a white person's job.
It's just an amazing thing that he, that he did that.
>> (voice breaking): Excuse me.
(sniffles, sobs) >> (sighs) ♪ ♪ >> Those of us who admired Wharlest Jackson... ...those of us who are proud of the kind of man he was... ...are gathered here today to extend our comfort to the bereaved family.
>> I couldn't understand why all the cameras was there, you know, even though we were burying my father-- I didn't understand burial.
>> I just knew that I would never see him again, so... ♪ ♪ >> Me being 12, 13, I didn't know what to do, but they always said, "Be strong for your mama, and watch out for her, you know, look out for my brothers and sisters."
>> (sniffles) >> I know it's hard, man.
But I know you want to know what happened, too, and it's... >> Worse than that.
I ain't know people were that cruel, man.
I ain't know people were that, that bloodthirsty, man.
I ain't know, I had no idea.
(sniffles) How could people sleep at night knowing that they done killed somebody like that?
>> Glover died in 1984 of a brain tumor.
All the other ones, one by one, have pretty well, all, all of these suspects that I've been telling you about, they've pretty well died.
When they close the case, they're going to send y'all a letter... >> They can't close the case.
>> America's going to have to answer for their injustice that they have caused all people for many years.
♪ ♪ >> It was a FBI agent that knocked on the door.
I opened the door up, he said, "I'm looking for Wharlest Jackson, Jr." He went back to his vehicle and gave me that letter.
>> I received this letter in the mail, and it was a slap in the face.
I felt like the FBI brought all this attention out to make them, make theyselves look good.
And, you know, and our family's still suffered.
(sniffles) I often tell myself nothing will ever survive over here because of the prejudice-ness that happened in this building.
A lot of sadness, a lot of hurt.
>> People are going to be frustrated if someone isn't convicted, if someone isn't arrested.
But at some point, a determination has to be made to close the case.
We've talked to everyone who could possibly have any real information.
How many times are we going to re-investigate?
There's no more value in asking more questions.
(birds chirping) >> I pray someday that we will come to the realization that Black lives matter.
We suffers the effects of slavery, of abuse... >> It's been years, and even though I try to say that I'm over it, you know, the less talk that I do, the better off I am.
>> Some of us suffered it mentally.
Some suffers it physically.
>> I actually had a hatred for white people for a long time.
It's like I blamed every white person that I came in contact with.
>> Lord, we say thank you.
>> Thank you, Lord.
(voiceover): It took my life down a different avenue.
It's been real hard, but, uh, you move on, you persevere.
>> During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, when people were murdered or beaten, did people get counseling?
We were left on our own.
>> This is my mom on the morgue table, my father standing over her.
The pain that my family suffered then we still suffer now.
(audience applauding) >> There's a sense that families like ours, we should just get over it.
But we have to admit the truth first.
>> You can have memorials, yes, but memorials cannot clothe and feed a family.
>> I was only what, ten, when my father got killed.
They had five children, four girls and one boy, and of course, you see the baby behind me.
(audience laughing) Those of you who seeking justice, you all are not alone.
We all in this together.
>> It's not an easy journey, it's a difficult journey, so sometime you gotta step back and take a look and even take a break, because this can be very exhausting sometime.
>> What really hurt me about today is hearing y'all's stories, man, to see that y'all still fighting.
You know, it should've... >> It should've been automatic.
>> Oh, brother, that... >> Justice.
The death of your sister has created a bond with you and I and with all those that are involved in the Civil Rights Era and so forth.
And you gonna have some dark nights and dark days because of your sister's death, even as I have had with my father's death.
And I want you to know I want to be that person that you can call and talk to.
>> Man, bro... (clears throat) Feels good to hear that, man, because it's a lot of times when you just feel like you out here by yourself all alone.
>> I was so... angry.
Don't let anger get...
I was so frustrated, I was so revengeful, that I couldn't stand myself.
So don't get like that, brother.
Let love rule and reign in your life.
It's a cruel world, but you be that light.
♪ ♪ >> In Natchez and all over America, the history of Black resistance has been erased.
They don't want to have anything that might make white people feel uncomfortable.
The Natchez boycott doesn't fit that narrative.
The Deacons don't fit that narrative.
They don't fit it at all.
>> Coming out of the Black Conscious Movement, I was looking to highlight the injustice of the unequal history here.
>> We're fixing to go left on Martin Luther King.
Slow just a minute.
If you could see that, that building right there, that two-story building is where the president of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, James Jackson, cut hair there.
This place right here was called the White House.
This is where Charles Evers hung out and made their strategy for what they would do.
The Deacons talk about how they used to be on top of the buildings right here protecting Charles Evers and the other people as they met.
This church right here is called Beulah Baptist Church, and this is where hundreds of people were attempting to protest.
They arrested them and took them and sent them to Parchman, Mississippi.
>> Within that same arrest was my mother and my father.
It was the first time I ever missed my mother and father from being at home as a kid.
>> Where we're going now is to show you where Wharlest Jackson lived when he heard the explosion.
>> Did they ever get anybody?
>> No, never.
>> To the left here, you'll see the sign.
We have a monument marker over here on the right side of the street where you see where the bomb went off at.
>> This was the peace that I found within myself to honor the late Wharlest Jackson, Sr. "He received a promotion at the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company that otherwise would have gone to a white employee," for a five-cent raise.
You think about five cent.
>> A Wharlest Jackson.
Oftentimes, we don't hear the narratives of those folks.
They're just a regular person who decides to stand up and to work on behalf of the community.
>> Repeat your name.
>> Wharlest Jackson.
>> Wharlest Jackson.
>> But our story should include folks like that.
>> It has been a hard 54 years, and still is hard, but it brings great honor that I stand here in his steps and on his shoulders.
Thank you, Daddy.
♪ ♪ >> Go to pbs.org/frontline for more on the historical footage from filmmakers Ed Pincus and David Neumann used in “American Reckoning.” >> Repeat your name.
>> Wharlest Jackson.
>> And check out "Unresolved," our multiplatform experience examining America’s legacy of racist killings.
>> This house was the start of The Civil Rights Movement.
It’s Emmett Till’s house.
>> Connect with FRONTLINE on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and stream anytime on the PBS Video App, YouTube or pbs.org/frontline.
♪ ♪ >> ♪ All I need is freedom ♪ >> ♪ Freedom ♪ >> ♪ All I need is freedom ♪ >> ♪ Freedom... ♪ >> For more on this and other Frontline programs visit our website at pbs.org/frontline.
♪ ♪ >> ♪ Heed the history and ♪ ♪ learn from it ♪ ♪ It shouldn’t be a mystery ♪ ♪ We burn for it ♪ ♪ In time nothing has ♪ ♪ changed though ♪ ♪ Turn on the news it’s like ♪ ♪ we watching the same show ♪ ♪ The past and future it’s sad ♪ ♪ you refute the parallels ♪ ♪ The truth it never fails ♪ ♪ Time for reckoning... ♪ >> ♪ All I need is freedom... ♪ >> Frontline’s “American Reckoning” is available on Amazon Prime Video.
>> ♪ Freedom... ♪