Day 5: Of Guns and Freedom | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Day 5: Of Guns and Freedom

By his own admission in court on Tuesday, it was Charles Marcus Edwards who first fingered Henry Dee. The young man who lived near him had come back to Chicago and was wearing a black bandana around Franklin County. That was a sign of trouble to the members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Edwards' friends and adopted family.

"(He) fit the profile of maybe a Black Panther," Edwards testified about Dee. Prosecutor Paige Fitzgerald asked: Who figured that out? "I did," Edwards replied.

In those days, it was young black men like Dee who worried men like Edwards and James Ford Seale. Young blacks often went to stay with relatives up north in places like Chicago, where their people had migrated during tough Jim Crow times in Mississippi. They would go up for the summer, or to look for work, or just to live in the city. Often, they would come back home with ideas in their heads. Ideas of freedom. Ideas of talking back. Ideas of activism.

This was true of Dee. But he probably also got some ideas right there in Franklin County from men like J.L. Miller, then of the NAACP, and Rev. Clyde Briggs, men who were teaching African Americans to stand up against the Klan. They believed that black men should arm themselves to protect their families. As a result, the Klan targeted them both, chasing them as they drove from church to church.

It was the defiant efforts of men like Briggs and Miller that likely had the Klan paranoid and beating young men to find out where the guns were being kept. Edwards told how the Klan met about Dee and decided that he might have knowledge of blacks arming themselves. Then, on the morning of May 2, 1964, they went after him, also picking up Charles Moore, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Once James Ford Seale drove the two young men into the Homochitto National Forest, Edwards testified, he held the sawed-off shotgun while Klansmen beat the young men with long sticks, asking about the guns. Finally, Dee told them that the guns were hidden in Briggs' church. Edwards and other Klansmen went to get Sheriff Wayne Hutto—whom Edwards said was also Klan—to help them search the church. They found no guns.

But Miller and the family of Briggs, who is now deceased, said there were indeed guns. Miller recalls both the Klan, and later the FBI, coming to Briggs' church looking for the weapons.

Despite the murders of Dee and Moore, Miller says that black self-defense saved the community. "So that kind of put a dent in the Klansmen because when we got organized, we had the Deacons for Defense. So (the Deacons) had weapons. And (the Klan) found out that we had those weapons. So they kind of like backed up," Miller said in 2005.

Previous Comments

ID
131582
Comment

In those days, it was young black men like Dee who worried men like Edwards and James Ford Seale. Young blacks often went to stay with relatives up north in places like Chicago, where their people had migrated during tough Jim Crow times in Mississippi. They would go up for the summer, or to look for work, or just to live in the city. Often, they would come back home with ideas in their heads. Ideas of freedom. Ideas of talking back. Ideas of activism. My mom went to Chicago for the summer once when she was a kid, but she didn't enjoy herself because her cousin turned out to be a shoplifter and curfew breaker. When she told Mom to run, she ran. Mom said she couldn't wait to get back home. Also, she said that classmates who spent the summer up North got laughed at when they got back because they came back talking funny. :-P Despite the murders of Dee and Moore, Miller says that black self-defense saved the community. “So that kind of put a dent in the Klansmen because when we got organized, we had the Deacons for Defense. So (the Deacons) had weapons. And (the Klan) found out that we had those weapons. So they kind of like backed up,” Miller said in 2005. I didn't know they had a Soul Patrol back then. :-)

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-06T09:57:33-06:00
ID
131583
Comment

Thank God for the 2nd Amendment. :D

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-06-06T17:06:57-06:00
ID
131584
Comment

This is really interesting to me on a personal note. One of the reasons that a lot of the blacks in that time survived is because they had guns, or they were at the very least, thought to have had them. Miller's Statement: "we had the Deacons for Defense. So (the Deacons) had weapons. And (the Klan) found out that we had those weapons. So they kind of like backed up,” Miller said in 2005. " Remember, the right to bear arms is an individual right, and thankfully so. I'm actually surprised that more of you haven't chimed in on this. lc

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-06-06T20:44:00-06:00
ID
131585
Comment

Certainly, a huge hypocrisy of this state has long been that while whites believe strongly in the right to arm themselves in self-defense, they historically have not believed that blacks have the right to do the same. This is one of the important lessons of real history of our state, instead of the whitewashed kind that keeps the nonviolent myths of our history alive.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-06T20:49:25-06:00
ID
131586
Comment

Yeah... nonviolent means work. Sometimes. :D Bad people (or our Government) should fear an armed citizenry. We will not be enslaved, however, an unarmed citizenry will remain always remain enslaved.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-06-06T21:11:50-06:00
ID
131587
Comment

One church African American church in south Mississippi never burned for this reason. The WHITE sherrif told Klan leaders that the congigation hunted, had guns, were watching their church at night, , and any shootings near the African American church would go down as either a fox hunt or racoon hunting expidition gone wrong... accidental. Needless to say the Klan made a lot of threats but NEVER went near that church. Not all sherrifs and not all law enforcement was bad. There were good people. There were many bad though. AGamma627

Author
AGamm627
Date
2007-06-06T22:55:52-06:00

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