In late January, a Mississippi man was arrested for a 1965 murder. James Seale, now 71, was arrested on kidnapping charges related to killing two Black teenagers, who were tied to trees, whipped and drowned. Seale’s arrest, and others like it, shows that the nation is still struggling to come to grips with its violent history around the treatment of Blacks and the Civil Rights Movement.
The two young Black men who Seale is charged with kidnapping were murdered during Freedom Summer, the summer of 1964 when civil rights workers converged in Mississippi to register Black voters. This push to register voters brought with it a wave of terror and violence wrought by the Ku Klux Klan.
When Seale’s victims were found, they initially attracted some media attention, because it was thought they might be the bodies of the three civil rights workers who had recently disappeared. However, when it became clear they were not those workers, federal officials quickly turned the investigation over to local authorities, and the inquiry into the deaths was quickly swept under the rug. Not surprising, as Seale was a former deputy.
It is good that Seale is finally being brought to justice, but we cannot forget that these murders are only two of countless murders that remain unsolved. The only reason that this case was even re-opened was that a reporter, Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., wrote extensively about the case, showing that investigative files were recovered and that the murders likely took place on federal land.
Who knows how many murders of Blacks remain unsolved because of a lack of interest from either local or federal officials? As this case showcases, if the people killed weren’t high-profile, very little effort was expended to bring their killers to justice. Many murders were half-heartedly investigated and then promptly closed, their victims forgotten. Seale’s arrest should serve as a poignant reminder of how far we as a nation still have to go in righting the wrongs of more than a century of Black oppression.
Eliza Brinkmeyer is a media relations specialist with the Advancement Project. This article is reprinted with permission from the organization’s blog, .