Originally Appeared At This Link:
Former Area Author Revisits Civil Rights Cases
By Terry Housholder
Fort Wayne Daily News
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Susan Klopfer believes the long, sad chapter of American history surrounding the civil rights struggles of African Americans should never be forgotten. Using her journalistic talents, she’s authored two books focused on unsolved atrocities in the Mississippi Delta region that have brought new light to several cases.
The former Kendallville resident now living Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is a writer and blogging journalist. A Hanover College graduate who received her M.B.A. from Indiana Wesleyan University, she’s been a newspaper reporter and an acquisitions and development editor for Prentice-Hall.
Klopfer, whose husband, Fred, is a psychologist, has authored several non-fiction books in the past, including a computer book for Prentice-Hall, “Abort! Retry! Fail!” that was an alternate selection for the Book-of-the-Month Club. She’s now marketing two books she wrote while living in the Mississippi Delta: “Where Rebels Roost: Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited,” and “The Emmett Till Book.”
Klopfer lived two years in Mississippi and was fascinated when meeting interesting people who were part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. They inspired her to collect their stories and to do extensive research and writing over a 23-month period.
“Every time I turned around, I was running into people who wanted to talk about what they knew, about what happened during the civil rights years,” Klopfer said. “Many had relatives who were killed or disappeared. I started working like crazy because I was excited about what I was discovering and learning.”
Klopfer said she read several hundred books, dissertations and reports. She visited every regional, state and university library and archives in Mississippi, looking for materials. She found volumes more on the Internet. She also read a number of documented oral histories and interviewed people with incredible stories to tell.
The tragic story of Emmett Till is one of the most fascinating she’s researched. Till was the 14-year-old African American polio victim from Chicago, Ill., who was murdered in Money, Miss., a small town in the Delta region, on Aug. 28, 1955, after reportedly whistling at a white woman.
The murder was one of the leading events that led to the growing civil rights movement in the nation. Till was beaten, had an eye gouged out, and was shot through the head. His body, with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied to it with barbed wire, was found in the Tallahatchie River.
Till’s mother, grieved by the brutality of the killing, insisted on a public funeral, with an open casket. Nearly 50,000 people viewed the body. The main suspects in the case were acquitted by an all-male, all-white jury after 67 minutes of deliberations.
In her research, Klopfer met an attorney who was born the same year as Till, in the same Delta town where Till was murdered. The attorney was the first black law student at the University of Mississippi. He had been highly influenced by the Till murder and spent years investigating it and other civil rights murders.
“His papers disappeared six months following his murder (in 1997) and few friends and family in Mississippi want to talk about him or what happened,” Klopfer said. “Some are ashamed because he was gay. Others seem just don’t know the ‘official’ story has so many holes. His best friend in Alabama may have been murdered three years before he was.”
Klopfer said the most interesting information she uncovered in her research was the story of two teachers who were apparently murdered in 1966. They were targeted by the Ku Klux Klan for their activist roles in promoting voter registration after the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The women were run off the road on their way home from a meeting in Jackson, Miss. “There was no police report,” said Klopfer. “These murders were not investigated… A family member came to me and asked me to look into it because something wasn’t right.
“I was most surprised when discovering the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission,” she said. “It was a spy agency funded by the state from 1955 to 1972 to halt integration. Former military intelligence and FBI agents were hired and they, in turn, used the services of the Klan as enforcers. I was able to go through these papers and trace a money trail to an East Coast foundation that gave money to Mississippi to fight the Civil Rights Act and to fund private, segregated academies in Mississippi. Even today, few Mississippians know this history.
“I feel very obligated to tell these stories, of true civil rights heroes who have lost their lives,” she said.
Everything she collects is shared with other professionals. An investigative organization for which she is a senior investigator keeps all the records and data she collects. “I keep no secrets,” she said.
Klopfer says the reaction to her books (available at Amazon.com) about the civil rights issues in Mississippi has ranged from “interest to anger.” She’s enjoyed giving away free copies on CDs to people in the Delta region whose families have been affected over the years.
“This history is not taught — much of it has not been collected,” she said.
Anger has come from some officials and some academics who don’t want to see these stories told or who believe they should be telling them, rather than Klopfer. “Sometimes the competition and ownership issues get a little silly,” she added.
Klopfer has been blogging her newest book, “Who Killed Emmett Till?” at emmett-till.blogspot.com and she is set to turn it into an e-book next week. She soon will turn to writing a book about “writing books in today’s digital/Internet environment.” And she’s working to find more information on the FBI agent who was possibly killed because he knew too much about the assassination of President Kennedy.
But telling the untold stories of the civil rights movement remains dear to her. “In Mississippi, it’s said ‘the past is the present.’ And it was and still is.”
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Special~Susan Klopfer: Blogging For Justice & History For Emmett Till & The Mississippi Delta...Using 21st Century Technology To Get Justice & Archive History For 20th Century Atrocities In The Mississippi Delta...http://www.blogtalkradio.com/weallbe/2009/08/20/Tha-Artivist-PresentsWE-ALL-BE-News-Radio
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