Reporter who helped reopen unsolved civil rights murder cases to give virtual KU lecture

photo by: Contributed Photo/Simon & Schuster

Jerry Mitchell and the cover of his book "Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era."

A reporter who spent decades investigating unsolved murders from the civil rights era will give a virtual talk Tuesday through the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas.

Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss., will discuss his new book, “Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era.” In his book, Mitchell describes how he built up evidence against members of the Ku Klux Klan, and how his reporting helped reopen four infamous cases from the Civil Rights era: the assassination of Medgar Evers, the firebombing killing of Vernon Dahmer, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., and the Mississippi Burning murders.

“His efforts have put four leading Klansmen behind bars, years after they thought they had gotten away with murder,” the publisher’s book description reads. “Race Against Time” came out in February 2020 from Simon & Schuster.

In a video from the MacArthur Foundation, Mitchell said it was the 1989 movie “Mississippi Burning” that kickstarted his investigative efforts. Mitchell was a 2009 MacArthur Fellow.

“I saw the movie, and I was just very outraged by what had happened. And especially the fact that — you know — these killings had gone unpunished,” he said in the interview. “And so, that kind of began my journey, I guess you could say, into looking into these old cases.”

Mitchell’s free, virtual talk will take place Tuesday at 4 p.m. through the Hall Center’s Crowdcast page: The event is part of the Hall Center’s Humanities Lecture Series.


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