tv Investigative Journalism Civil Rights CSPAN March 23, 2019 6:55pm-8:01pm EDT
ed: yes. >> thank you, ed. [applause] >> learn more about the people that shape the civil war and construction only on "american history tv" on c-span3. >> next, investigative journalist, terry mitchell talks about -- jerry mitchell talks about his 30 year career. he talks about how he helped put klansmen in -- four jail. an hour.t is just over jerry: good evening.
lewis, is charles professor and executive editor of the investigative workshop. welcome to the american university school. this important event tonight is schoolored by the au coalition and black alumni alliance. the investigative reporting --kshop is an award-winning the mission of the black alumni alliance is to create a lifelong and worldwide community among more than 6000 hundred au alumni who identify with the black in african heritage committees
through increased opportunities for meaningful engagement through the goal of meaningful awareness, pride, participation, involvement and philanthropic commitment to american university. we're thrilled to have a number of alliance members tonight here tonight, including the president gordon andrews. i'm sure gordon will make some brief remarks closing out our program of it later. that is our distinct honor and pleasure and privilege to welcome courageous, teenagers investigative journalist -- tenacious investigative journalist jerry mitchell. jerry mitchell has investigated some of the most heinous civil rights crimes in u.s. history. investigative reporter at the clarion ledger newspaper for 30 years. ku stories have helped put 4 klux klan's man in a suspected serial killer behind bars. his stories have also exposed
injustices and corruption prompting investigations, reforms of state agencies and the firings of boards and officials. his stories have also helped lead to the release of two people from mississippi's death row. a winner of a $500,000 macarthur genius grant and more than 30 other national awards, including being named a pulitzer prize finalist. he is finishing his memoir about his pursuit of civil rights cold cases. his book is entitled "race against time" for simon and schuster. sherri williams is assistant professor here at the american university school of communications. dr. williams has a masters degree and phd from the syracuse university school of public communications, and earlier, a degree in english with a concentration in journalism from jackson state university in mississippi.
interestingly, she also worked for a few years at the clarion ledger newspaper in jackson, mississippi. as a professor and media researcher, work focuses on how groups are portrayed in the media. thats now leading a study discovers how black millennials are affected by seeing images of fatal police brutality against black people in social media. without further ado, jerry mitchell will now talk and show some photos about his remarkable civil rights reporting these past three decades. after that, dr. sherri williams will ask him about his important, courageous reporting, and then we will open it up to questions from the audience. you are on. [applause] jerry: thank you so much. i appreciate it, chuck.
thank you, american university. i'm looking forward to talking to you, dr. sherri. it is great to be with you all. to talk about a couple of cases that i have worked on. you may heard about these cases in the news. one of them you may have heard about and one you may not have heard about. it follows mentor evers. evers wasmedgar involved in fighting at normandy in world war ii, fighting the nazis and returned home to mississippi to find racism all over again in the form of jim crow that barred african-americans from restaurants, restrooms. evers -- sometimes
people say the civil rights movement began with brown v. board of education. that is a lie. it began far before that. medgar evers was among those that was involved there. he was involved in a campaign in the mississippi county delta with bumper stickers that said don't buy gas or don't use the restroom. he came home from world war ii, and on his 21st birthday, went with a group of african-american soldiers, including his brother charles to try to go vote at the courthouse indicator, decatur,i, and -- in mississippi, and were turned away by white men with guns. day,r, in recalling that
thou that day that he would never be whipped again. he applied at the university of mississippi to attend law school. he was turned away. this is again before brown v. board of education and before james meredith ended up becoming the first known african-american student there. there actually was an african-american student before then, but he wasn't known, much to ole miss's chagrin later on. he became field secretary for the naacp in mississippi. he roamed the state of mississippi, but about 40,000 miles a year on his oldsmobile. he went to naacp branches, got involved in voting rights, he was involved in the protests and citizens that took place -- sit-ins that took place in downtown jackson, including the
organization with the students, that was mainly made up of two the -- students. one of them is with us tonight. [applause] mike is here who wrote a book about that. [applause] glad to have you all here. it is kind of that iconic photo, if you have ever seen it, the most violent response to a sit in in the united states during the early 1960's. medgar, on the same night that president kennedy told the nation that the grandsons of slaves were still not free, medgar evers came home that night just after midnight and was shot in the back in his own driveway. his wife, children heard the shot, ran outside and saw his
blood in screamed. he was pronounced dead within an hour. 26 years later, i'm standing with his assassin. outside thecture shooter's home in tennessee. i came because i was upset. i don't know if you are like me, but if someone tells me i can't have something, i want it a million times worse. there is something in mississippi called the mississippi sovereignty commission, which is a spy agency that existed from the 1950's until the 1970's. at mississippi legislature, that point voted in the 1970's to seal all of those records for 50 years. i'm talking about more than 132,000 pages of records that were sealed by mississippi lawmakers. and me, being a cynical and
suspicious reporter thought, i bet there is something in there. [laughter] develop sources that access the files, they began to leak me the files. what they showed was at the same time the state of mississippi was prosecuted in byron for the killing of medgar, this other sovereign commission was assisting byron's defense. my story ran october 1, 1989. the odds were literally more than one million to one about it ever being reopened. the widow of medgar evers believe in print and amazing things happened. a couple years later, jackson police were cleaning out a closet and cleaned out a box that had photographs of the killing of medgar evers,
including the fingerprint of byron from the murder weapon. courtowed me a copy of a transcripts yet saved in a safe deposit box. a few months after that, the prosecutor in the case found the murder weapon in his father-in-law's closet. which sounds like i'm making it up, i know, but it really did happen. as i mentioned, i went to go visit byron. he lived in tennessee. this was in april of 1990. i was to go visit him -- wnet to go visit him. i can honestly say he was the most racist person i ever spent serious time with. word that., n that he started on other nonwhite races. gary anti-semitic as well. believe that jews were satanic.
by the end of the conversation, i felt like i needed a bath. it was one of those conversations. it was getting dark. i thought it was a good time to leave. and so he insisted on walking out to the car. i am like, really? that is ok. i think i can find my way. i'm just at the end of the driveway. anyway, he walked me out to the car anyway. he gets me out of the car and blocks my way to the door and says, if you write positive things about white caucasian christians, god will bless you. if you went negative things -- right negative things, god will punish you. if god will not do it directly, several individuals will do it for him. [laughter] his wife had maybe a sandwich. [laughter]
i think you can guess what i did with the sandwich. indicted in december of 1990. this is months later. he is indicted in the murder of medgar evers. remember, this is all pre-internet. not realize i was the one that wrote the story that got the case reopened when i went and visited him. he fought extradition. this time, he had figured it out. he saw me across the courtroom and goes, see that man over there,, when he dies, he is going to africa. [laughter] i turned to my friend and said, i have always wanted to go to africa. wassurprisingly, byron convicted on february fifth,
1994 in the exact same courtroom he had been tried in almost 40 years to the day. when the word guilty ran out, you could hear the waves of joy as they cascaded down the hall until it reached a foyer of people in black and white. erupted indire -- cheers. the impossible has suddenly become possible. merly evers and her daughter cheered as well. byron wasng after indicted in 1990, i met with this lady. damer, she is the widow of vernon damer.
he was in naacp leader, a friend of medgar evers. he has like 200 acres that they grew cotton and other crops with. he was very dedicated to voting rights. in fact, that is how he became a target of the klansmen back in 1966. the clan attacked him and his family in the middle of the night. can you imagine being sleeping in the middle of the night and this is what it was like for vernon, attacked at 2:00 in the morning. the clan firebombed their home, set their house on fire. the clan began firing their guns into the house. up,on boehner -- damer woke grabbed his shotgun and begin firing back at the klansmen so his family could escape safely at a back window.
unfortunately, the flames of the fire steered his lungs -- seared his lungs and he died later that day. a few weeks later in the mail came his voter registration card. he has fought his whole life for the right of all americans to be able to vote, but had never been able to cast a ballot himself. the guy who ordered the killing -- by the way, this is his son. he had four sons at the time in the military, and this is what they came home to. vernon damer, six of his seven sons served a total of 78 years of service for this country. isn't that amazing? heartbreaking photo, taken by , by chris mcnair. i don't know if you know who that is, the father of denise mcnair, who is one of the four little girls who was killed in
the birmingham church bombing. he took this photograph. bombingwho ordered the of vernon damer in his home was this guy, his name is sam bowers, responsible for at least 10 killings in mississippi that we know of. bowers had been tried but never convicted in this case. familyhe vernon damer met with me, they went and met with the district attorney, who acted interested and that overtime got cold feet. he had an excuse. of, heat got taken care had another excuse. when that got taken care of, he had another excuse. you get the picture.another district attorney came in and they were like starting over from square one. it look like nothing was going to happen. i got a fellowship to ohio state to go get my masters. the record to pay me and let me get my masters for free. i thought, that sounds like a
good deal. springerally in ohio in and i get a telephone from this guys who wouldn't identify himself or give me his name, but wanted to meet with me. i flew back to mississippi. and met with him. sons ofof his, two vernon damer, we met in this hotel room that reeks of chlorine. the pool was right outside. it turned out this guy had worked for sam bowers. he was the guy who kind of type that the klan propaganda because i guess no one else in the clan knew how to type. he overheard sam bowers gave the orders to kill vernon damer. he told us that. after you have with us, he met with the district attorney. the case got reopened. this was in 1997.
the guy who had been the key witness in the 1960's with this pitts.lly roy he had been involved in the killing for vernon damer. i was researching how much time these guys actually served in prison in mississippi, because it was a bit of a joke. governors pardoned some of these guys. never only if you convicted. the ones who were convicted didn't spend much time in prison. i was researching each one of those and it got to him. i couldn't find any record of his state time, but i was told he went into the federal witness protection program. i was checking with the federal bureau of prisons to see how much present time he did. file -- prison time he did. file and iled his
said how much did he actually served, and she said 3.5 years. federalnd, that he left prison and went into the witness protection program. she said that is impossible. there was no federal witness protection program back then. pitts hadt, billy roy never served a single day of his life sentence in mississippi. kind of a big oversight, right? you don't hear about that one everyday. pitts was alive, if he was dead, where he was. i got on the internet. most of the internet sites i knew, you have to have a city and state. i didn't know that. i just kind of tight -- there was one site i knew where you didn't have to know that. you just had to know his name and there it popped, his address
and telephone number. so i called him. . the first 20 minutes of the conversation went like this how did you find me? unlike, it's on the internet -- i'm like, it's on the internet. that heult of my story had never served a single day of his life sentence, mississippi authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. he didn't like that. in fact, he ran. while he was on the run he sent me this audio cassette and i played it and this is literally how it began. jerry, i just thought i would let you know, you have ruined my life. but i promise, if i talk to anybody, i would talk to you. on the tape, he proceeds to tell me all about his involvement in the murder. shortly after this, he turns himself in to authorities. this now leaks there -- leads the rest to sam bowers.
this was in may 1998. him, bowers in addition to was arrested with his right-hand guy. dev the family brought ers knicks in, it was like the most pitiful sight you have ever seen. they wheeled him in, you see the tall green oxygen tank, the whole bit. they wheeled him up in front of ie judge, and he is like, can't take more than a couple of steps without needing oxygen, judge. the judges like, i normally don't d thiso, but i'm way to let you out without bond. a dozen days later, this is where we caught him. this is like a reporters dream. arrested. he loves me. sam i was goes on
trial and guess who is there to testify on his behalf, but mr. golfer. knicks is talking to his lawyer. i don't mean this as a cruel detail, but i'm going to tell you this anyway. this really good criminal defense lawyer back in the 1960's. by this point, the guy is in his 80's. that is great. but the reason for that little detail would be more apparent later. he is talking and trying to work out a signaling system. are probably ya'll like me and watch the cop shows or csi. you know you can claim your fifth amendment right at any time. they are just trying to work out a signaling system on this. he is talking to his client saying, devers, when you get up there, you need to take the fifth.
i'm going to raise my hand. devers is like, ok. by the way, devers is wearing the same golf cap, which just cracks me up. devers gets up and starts testifying. a look over at his lawyer about five minutes later, his lawyer was like zzzz. devers kept right on testifying. i was in the clan. he tried to put a positive spin on it, like there is one. the clan was a benevolent organization, passing out fruit baskets to the needy at christmas. under cross-examination, the prosecutor got up and said, mr. knicks, just how many fruit baskets did you pass out? devers said, said to say, none. [laughter] i swear it was the funniest trial i ever covered in my life
as a reporter. deadly serious matter, but funny trial. sam bowers was representative of this crown the right, travis buckley. he was not just a lawyer for the clan, he was a leader in the clan. he was actually indicted in the vernon damer firebombing at one point. pitts testified about this planning meeting that took place prior to the attack on vernon damer and his family. buckley asked him about it. who all waspitts, up at planning meeting? i was there, sam bowers was ers -- you were there. buckley is like, um. objection, your honor? trialscovered a lot of
in my life and that was the only time a witness had implicated the defense lawyer. not surprisingly, sam bowers was convicted, august 21, 1990. -- 1998. the thing is, the hate that caused this, if we are really honest in this country, it has never really gone away. agoasn't just a few years that a young man walked into his church in charleston and killed these nine beautiful people. it wasn't that long ago either down in charlottesville, right? that we had happened what we had happened. not that far from here, which is easy to think it doesn't happen around here. i have had my share of
death threats and things like that. people said they have pictures of me and my family and knew where we lived and things like that. sure, that is disconcerting. you never want to hear things like that. it led to an unexpected gift, and that is the gift of living fearlessly. living fearlessly is not about living without fear. living fearlessly is really about living beyond fear, isn't it? it's about living for something greater than ourselves, right? there have been 24 convictions in the civil rights cases across the country. [applause] and, i am a person of faith, and i do believe that god's hand has been involved in these cases.
but the most amazing thing i have witnessed actually has not been the convictions, which might surprise you. the most amazing things i've witnessed have been some of the racial reconciliation. not too long after sam bowers was convicted, billy ray pitts testified in a hearing. when he got done, he walked to the back of the courtroom and he ran into mrs. damer. billy roy pitts apologized to mrs. damer and asked her to forgive him for killing her husband. schieffer gave him -- she forgave him, and she began to cry. he began to cry. is that really what it's all about? redemption? china to make things right, even
when they have gone -- trying to make things right even when they have gone so terribly wrong in the past? may god bless you in your journey of redemption. thank you so much. [applause] [applause] this is my contact information, in case you want it. every day on facebook and twitter i post " today in civil rights history", or if you are so inclined, you can even only. -- email me. sheri: hello. a fellowod to see alum. clariont is a regular reunion. asking you art off question about one of the biggest stories that you covered along the way, which was the
release of the records for the sovereignty commission. you mentioned to the audience before and just to remind folks, it was a state agency that was set up specifically to spy on people working towards dismantling white supremacy in the state of mississippi. focusing a lot of time on the sovereignty commission. itself had atate real serious role in maintaining oppression in mississippi. you also mentioned how they were judges, sheriffs and all sorts of people in different positions of power working to make sure that not only were people punished, but also ensuring that they could continue to do this. talk about how important it was to show how the state as a government body played a strong role in making sure that all of
this could continue to happen, and also maybe for some of the reporters and students in here, talk about how important it is to still make those connections today in journalism. jerry: i think that was part of what i was trying to do. a kind of first got these leaks , i didn't get them all at once in 1989. by the end of 1989, i loaded up my little honda hatchback with about 2400 pages of sovereignty commission records. i always called them the sovereignty commission's greatest hits. that is the kind of things they showed. they got people fired from their jobs, they would smear them, they would smear and civil rights workers with the hope of driving them out of the state or rendering them ineffective and things like that. they spied on medg ever's ina 1958r and were trying to catch him in an illegal act.
just because they wrote it down doesn't make it true. a lot of times they would go and harass someone. if you read the record, it would be like, we went and talked to so and so. no, they didn't just go and talk to so and so. the sovereignty commission have two arms. one was a propaganda arm. they would send white speakers who would willingly volunteer and send them up north, and then they would send black speakers. and the noticed, -- unbeknownst, they were being paid. they would go up north and say we love segregation, we love jim crow and we want to keep it the way it is. obviously, the records themselves reflected what was really going on. the sovereignty commission itself was all of the top leaders of state government that were a part of the sovereignty commission, the lieutenant governor, the state
treasurer, all of the major offices were a part of that sovereignty commission as well as others as well. information.are i will give a simple example. the sovereignty commission spied --mick and his wifeey rita mickey and his wife rita three months prior to the clan killing them. here is what happened. date did these spy reports on what all they were doing and driving around in, their license tag number. gave it to the meridian police department, which you don't necessarily think anything about that, except when i tell you this, more than half the meridian police department were in the kkk. in fact, one of the main shooters in the murder party of the three civil rights workers was alan wayne roberts, whose brother lee was on the marine
police department. saying.ow what i am there was a very close connection between the sovereignty commission -- 5 sherri: almost no distinction. jerry: correct. sherri: i want to talk about the storytelling a little bit, and specifically sources. i know that you have a very strong relationship with meryl that goes, -- evers beyond just a reporter covering a trial. think your work has been really important because if anyone knows the history of the clarion ledger, when all this was happening, we talk about the state being complicit in allowing some of this brutality to exist, but the clarion, before it became the clarion ledger, was really a strong proponent of segregation. stories are doing the
20, 30 years later, it was probably the first time we heard the voices of the survivors of the civil rights people who were killed. can you talk about how you were able to even develop those relationships when these people were alive and new years before, that this paper was ignoring everything that was happening, and even supporting it, but then later, you were coming to do the stories? how were you able to do that and develop those relationships? jerry: great question. i wish merrily was able to -- meryl lee was here to answer that. i think she began to trust me over time. like what is this might wake up to. the history of the clearing ledger and the jackson daily news -- i think one of the
things we did that helped with that was part of what i got out of the sovereignty commission, papers -- commission papers was what we got out of our actual newspaper. we did a paper on ourselves and exposed with the clarion newspaper was doing at the time. the were killing stories are running stories at the request of the sovereignty commission.we published all of that . that is one of the things i said to the editors. somebody has got to publish this at some point. i thought we needed to do it. i wanted us to do an editorial and apologize. i didn't convince them on that point, but i still think it would've been the right thing to do. sherri: you talked about redemption of the bed earlier. it seems as if the state of mississippi and other southern states are not only trying to express some redemption or at least come to grips with the horrible and violent legacy that
they have in terms of civil rights by actually celebrating the history, by knology it. there is a series of national and state markers. there was the recent opening of the mississippi civil rights museum. actually acknowledging what happened and tried to celebrate and amplify it in some way is something that we have seen happen in a lot of these southern states. but part of the redemption and reconciliation is because there have been actual convictions. jerry: yes. sherri: because of the work you have done. can you talk about what you feel about how your work fits into the legacy of the history of mississippi? jerry: i think what is important is before you have reconciliation, you have got to have truth. you have got to have truth. i think it has been part of the problem, that the truth hasn't been told. how many students learned about this in school.
i think that is one of the reasons i do this on my facebook page and twitter page is because every day when i post these things, i'm kind of amazed by how many people, both black and white say, i never knew this. it,history, as i always put it's not just black history, this is american history. i'm amazed by how it is not being taught. the civil rights movement often gets reduced to this, that was the parts sat down and martin the taking stood up. -- rosan luther king parks sat down and martin luther king stood up. what gets left out is rosa parks wasn't actually the first one to refuse to give up her seat. clockwere four before her that was the first one and she
-- claudette with the first one and she was only 15 years old. those four ladies, their work led to the historic lawsuit that resulted in the desegregation of city buses, but people don't know their names. important, to not just know names of martin luther king as we should, but to know the names in the stories of so many others. the mississippi civil rights museum i feel like is excellent. who all has been to the civil rights museum in mississippi? anybody? we actually have several. i think it's excellent. among the regional, i would say excellent, obviously, the one here in d.c. is superb. sherri: you talked a little bit about earning the trust of your
sources.i thought it was really interesting when you said that meryl lee evers and others were wondering, what is this white dude trying to do. one of the things that our students are thinking about here and we are having them think consciously about is their position in stories and their identities in the intersection of their identities and the power they possess, regardless of what those identities are, and how that can affect the storytelling and the ways that they can even approach people or do approach people. i wonder if you could talk a little bit about your position as a white journalist, a white man journalist writing the stories and how that came into play while you are doing this work. jerry: on one hand, it might have been a detriment from a standpoint of relating to meryl lee evers and others. on the other hand, it was maybe
an asset from the perspective of , someone has talked to me if i have any black journalist. i have that advantage. i'm a southerner. they have a picture in the distant -- dictionary of a white wasp, that would be me. i qualify on those accounts. i think, use those to your advantage. eeat helped me was meryl l evers could see that i was honest and i was trying to tell the truth in all the stories i did. she trusted me and began to trust me pretty quickly once she started seeing the stories and saw what my quotes with her and our conversations. that is what happens, i think anyway. you begin to have these conversations with resources. but will sound strange, people who have been longtime reporters know what i'm talking
about. you begin to have conversations beyond the story. you begin to find out about people and they begin to find out about u.s. people. -- you as people. those of the connections we need to happy for people begin to trust us. i mentioned truth has to come first and the other thing is, if justice is possible, we work toward that. that is when you can begin to have reconciliation. i don't think that can happen before then, until truth is told, until there are attempts at justice or some kind of a , then-- ammends reconciliation can take place. sherri: i want to ask you one more question before we open it up. that is for students who are interested in doing this kind of work, not necessarily civil rights, but social justice and racial justice kind of journalism, what advice do you have for them because i think there are people that they are
modeling their careers after. i know for me, i was a sophomore at jackson state in 1994 during trial and seeing your work in the paper every day was really inspirational for me. are there any ideas that you can, suggestions you can share the things they probably need to be doing, skills they need to sharpen or even journalists they should follow in books or series to read? jerry: wow. [laughter] i don't know if i can answer that all at once. i will try my best. for me, personally, it became bernstein. i read "all the president's men." someone gave me a piece on retribution. that became a primer for me. i think there are so many talented journalists. i know there is a website now
investigating power, which i recommend. go and look at those videos of some tremendously talented journalists. there are a lot of modern-day jonesike nicole hannah and people like that who do tremendous work. like ande people you who you want to imitate. i think that is what you do. , you read their work, you follow their work. they become your teachers and away. i think sometimes you feel like you have to be formally taught by anybody. you can read somebody's work and be top by somebody. that is a good way to begin to work.here is somebody i really like their writing , why is it i like their writing and kind of study it. i think they can learn. the students can learn from all levels, from reading lots of people's work, hopefully.
sherri: let's open it up to the audience for questions. >> thank you so much for coming here. you touched upon charlottesville. there was a front-page story this weekend -- i don't recall if it was "the washington post" or "the new york times" depicting high-resolution pictures. could you share insight as to how bad people like that can be so elusive in terms of being captured? jerry: that is a great question. that is probably a question for law enforcement. i am like you, i'm kind of baffled by this whole thing. i don't know.
that that would more easily solvable in those situations. is, i don'trt understand in general sometimes by law enforcement doesn't take advantage of media along those lines. there is a power to be had. i think sometimes they don't take advantage. to use to see a lot more that, with you about photos or skip -- where they without photos or sketches in the present easily disseminate it. i don't know that i have an answer for it. hi, on you is start. i am -- star. i'm a senior here. my question for you, especially being in the midst of these cases while they were happening and when they were new conversations, did you have
anybody in your life who dropped it because of your deciding to to theseied communities that it has the privilege that you have, and also, is there any advice that you could give to others on how to be a good ally? jerry: that is a great question. yes, overtime, that happened. once i have done the med evers case,r -- medgar evers that became a means by which people said you are the reporter that did such and such. it does help to know these other families. that is by the daimler family came to me was because of the evers case. the main thing with the families, regardless of skin color is for there to be trust that when you talk to them, you are quoting them accurately, you are representing their views
accurately, all of those kinds of things. that, in my opinion is how you begin to build trust. they see you are not trying to burn them or misrepresent what they are saying or things like that. -- you begin to have these longer conversations, and you begin to find out what all the family has been going for. this is the way i think of anything, with sources or whoever. you kind of begin to find out as much information as you can without necessarily intending to publish everything they tell you. then you begin to work them onto the record. there may be something that has happened or information. i will give you an example. family, vernon dahmer it is kind of interesting. 's father was
actually a white man and he lived his whole life as a black man. very interesting, right? that was not something they told me the first time i showed up. that was the story they told me after years of beginning to trust me, but i thought was a fascinating story.i'm only giving a part of that story , but it is very fascinating. vernon was the only one who stayed. the whole rest of the family moved, left mississippi. some pass for white up north, which was a whole other kind of interesting saga as well. those are the kinds of stories you find out over time, and why do you find that out? because the family trust you and you begin to share information. you have all this information and then gradually say, is this something you would be comfortable talking about in a news story? you don't instantly jump and
say, hey, i'm going to do a story on this. you begin to get them to trust you. let's just take it aside from these families. usually when you talk to a source, let's just say someone you're interviewing for an article. they don't want to talk on the record, they just want to talk off the record or on background. you get that information from them and then you go back through your quotes and he find the most innocuous quote they gave you. people want this information out or they would be talking to you. you pick the quote and you go, would you be willing to say that on the record? cannot escape to say that on the record. and they go, ok. and then you go to the next quote. and then you go to the next quote. and then you go to the quote you really want to get them on the record on. sometimes you can move them like
that, whereas if you don't have anything, if they say, i'm not going to talk to you at all on the record, you say, ok, i'm not going to talk to you and just kind of move. instead, it is better to get the information from them in and gradually try to move them onto the record. to me, that is a valuable way of doing that. you begin to find that information. you begin to develop that trust. they trust you enough that they want it and know that you will do a good job and they can trust you with it. sherri: i think we have time for one more question. perspectiveike your as somebody who has observed a lot of litigation for a long time on the future of prosecution as a remedy for civil rights and other social justice issues, particularly law students understand much of
prosecution in civil rights in the late 20th century as mostly the domain of impact litigation, legal aid organizations and other things. in the past few years or so, there seems to be the state of the are progressing towards things like elected offices, municipal prosecutors, da's, that sort of thing. to the flesh it out is your understanding, what do you think the next 10 years of prosecution remedies is going to be like? jerry: i just want to make sure i'm understanding your question. with regard to what civil rights aspects a talking about? like the cases i have been working on or are you talking about civil litigation? >> i would say the cases you are working on, that is good. let's stay there. jerry: if you are talking about criminal prosecutions, think the window is almost closed.
there may be another case out there that i don't know about. here's why. or thepects are dead witnesses are dead. that is why i'm saying, you kind of have to move from truth to justice where possible. where justice is it possible, which is kind of what we are talking about in the situation, you have to move on from prosecution and there is no such thing as prosecution, so what do you do in that situation? move.k then you have to what did south africa do in this situation? they set up truth and reconciliation. the idea behind that case was that, you come forward and tell the truth about what happened, and we are not going to prosecute. but you have to tell the truth in order to do that. i. can envision something like that happening at some point i don't know under what auspices that would be, but i can foresee
that with these particular kinds of cases because i don't see that many other prosecutions happening from this particular era. later, there might be, but for the 60's, 50's and 60's i'm talking about. sherri: i think that is about time. , i think -- the mind one more question? i guess two. the women over here and the gentleman in the back. what do youon is, do when you can't push the source to go on the record and it is something extraordinarily consequential. second question is, five years go by, 10 years go by, 15 years go by? is there an instance that can't you that was consequential and something you can't report. how did you personally handle it as a reporter and individual as well? honest, i haven't
had it happen. you are talking about some huge revelation that i could get someone -- i have had some revelations, but not anything that was so huge like a confession or different things that would tear you up. you would feel at some point an obligation as a citizen almost to report it. i haven't had it. i've been very fortunate. how are you? jerry: doing great. >> great. in regards to what the gentleman here was speaking about, what about carolyn bryant? jerry: she is very much alive. that is a great question. i will try to answer this. i know i'm supposed to answer this brief,.
just follow me. carolyn bryant -- the reason we know this -- carolyn bryant is em women who and it till -- it til reportedly -- she gave a statement to the defense lawyers a couple of weeks before the trial of her then husband and his half-brother, who killed emit ti l. her original statement to the defense, can we have copies of the notes because they are in the wilfred bradford hughley plaguerist -- papers at ohio state. she basically said he flirted with her, grabbed her hand, asked her for a date, flirted with her, whistle after. -- whistled at her.
she told a much different story at tile which was that and it all but raped h er. killers, there were actually more than that involved, there were at least four white guys involved. milam, the guye that ran the plantation, which was also where emit til was beaten and killed. william bradford hughley's piece, i always believed for so long was true. i now believe almost everything in that piece was alive. it has kind of been regarded for so many years as gospel.is not basically a lie , i realize now. almost everything in detail in it because we can prove
otherwise with fax, not just conjecture. conjecture.t just carolyn bryant was quoted in 10 --timtyson's book as admitting that she lied when she testified. something along those lines, very candid in some way. this is where it gets crazy. carolyn bryant's family says that is not true. tyson doesn't have it on tape, so it just becomes a matter of debate that way. i get to pack up and develop it in time. in 2007, the fbi investigated this again in the 2000's. in 2007, it was presented to a grand jury, and majority black grand jury in mississippi. they voted against indicting
carolyn bryant. they had a number of choices, one was murder, one was manslaughter, and i think there were some other possibilities. they declined to indict her. they declined to indict henry lee loggins, who was also identified as being involved in the killings as well. there were three black men allegedly involved as well. let's be honest, they weren't involved voluntarily. this was not a situation back in those times where it was voluntary. what evidences, is there against carolyn bryant? the grand jury at that time decided there wasn't enough evidence. i know the fbi has been investigating the very thing i talked about earlier about book andok -- tyson's whether she said or did. --becomes a legal question
the question becomes is there enough evidence to prosecute her. in hindsight, what should have havened is the feds should prosecuted her for lying to the fbi because she told the fbi the exact same story that she testified to in 1955. that would have been the easier road to take. that, unfortunately didn't happen, and i'm afraid nothing is going to happen to her. at least nothing that i have heard so far suggests that. should she be prosecuted is a great question. it is a matter of evidence in proving that. , we will see what the feds do but if i'm giving you my guess, i don't think they are going to do anything more than what they did back in 2007. sherri: jerry mitchell, thank you again for sharing your -- [applause]
incredible and transformative storytelling with us, and for reminding us to live fearlessly, not only an hour journalism work, but also in our lives. i would also like to give a special thanks to everyone who helped put this together from the event planning to the folks who are running the lights and taking care of this facility, and all of the work that has gone into this. that before you part, i want to introduce gordon andrew fletcher, who is the president of the american university black alumni association, which along iw, the school of communication is a sponsor tonight. mr. fletcher is a two-time alumnus of the au school of public affairs, both with a bachelor of arts in masters degree. he also holds a law degree from florida and an university -- a historically black college. gordon is a grant manager.
gordon: thank you so much for that introduction. good evening, everyone. i'm a little under the weather, so please bear with me. american of the university black alumni we would like to thank everyone for coming out tonight. we very much appreciate your trouble work around civil rights and for all people, not just for any one person, but for all people. at american university, we stand firmly upon the institution's commitment of mutual respect. say that weand must
are very pleased to cosponsor the event tonight with the investigating workshop and school of communications. the mission is to provide alumni and black students with networking and professional development as well as to uplift the ebony eagle, and while also positively impacting the american university. for more information about how to get involved, please pick up a postcard at the reception. eagleoud to be an ebony and applaud all of our alumni infinity groups for their ongoing commitment to au by enhancing the experience of current students through great events such as the one tonight. we welcome you all to join us outside the theater in the foyer four hour reception, and again, thank you very much. [applause]
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