The true story of the Mississippi Burning Murders.
Attack on Terror: The FBI Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi (1970) by Don Whitehead
A few days ago, our today in law enforcement history segment covered the horrific murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. With the help of racist local sheriff’s deputies, the three freedom advocates were led to a secluded road and shot to death. President Lyndon Johnson tasked J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI with leading the investigation on the sensitive case.
Several notable works of literature and film were based on the gripping story. The movie Mississippi Burning is undoubtedly the most famous of these works. It is a well-acted film featuring Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman as the FBI agents who investigated the case. Although it was nominated for several Academy Awards, the film has a serious flaw. The movie is “inspired by” the murders in Mississippi and does not tell the true story. Why Hollywood had to mess with an already shocking and compelling story is beyond us. It is an important story to tell and facts matter.
For the real skinny on the murders and their successful investigation you must hit the books. Journalist Don Whitehead’s Attack on Terror: The FBI Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi is the seminal narrative of the case. Whitehead uses extensive research and first-person interviews to get the facts. Whitehead, an award-winning journalist with national notoriety was able to get J. Edgar Hoover to grant him access to the agents and some of the case files to tell the true story.
Whitehead paints a terrific and compelling picture of the investigation. He is a masterful storyteller and uses his journalist chops to ensure every fact makes it into the narrative. You will feel like you are on a ride along with some of the best agents the FBI has ever produced. He captures the local resident’s feelings and the shift in public opinion as the case developed.
The FBI took on the power of the Klan in rural Mississippi and broke their hold over the local population. Whitehead takes a deep dive into both organizations and shows why the FBI came out on top. It is an important book and a great read.
The book can be picked up on Amazon for $25. We couldn’t find an audio version of the book, but this is something you are going to want a hardcopy of. Its well worth the cost, and a must have for anyone with a bookshelf of important American literature.
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