Cold Case Reporting: Revisiting Racial Crimes

Why is what happened then considered news today? Why stir up memories of events that were long ago put to rest? Hank Klibanoff, author of “The Race Beat” and managing editor of the Civil Rights Cold Case Project, leads off our collection of stories by writing about how people want to know what compels journalists to dig into racial crimes from a distant era. Others involved with this project—and two reporters who covered the civil rights movement—write about the importance of not forgetting.

Cold Case Reporting: Revisiting Racial Crimes
Here’s What People Want to Know: Why Do Journalists Tell These Stories?
‘Why is what happened then considered news today? Why stir up memories of events that were long ago put to rest?’
By Hank Klibanoff
The Enduring Ambition of the Civil Rights Cold Case Project (1 comment)
‘What I didn’t know going in was how inspired I’d feel by hearing these journalists share fragments from their work that spoke to why telling these stories mattered to them—and should matter to all of us.’
By Robert J. Rosenthal
Revealing Sex Crimes Against Black Women (2 comments)
By Jan Gardner
Who Killed Frank Morris? (1 comment)
Hearing of a racial murder that happened 43 years earlier, a reporter starts digging. Four years and more than 150 stories later, a grand jury was convened.
By Stanley Nelson
When Lawyers and Journalists Share Common Cause
‘Our dual approaches keep steady attention fixed on the [Frank] Morris case and they pressure local and federal law enforcement to thoroughly investigate it, with a spillover effect of bringing renewed attention to other cold cases …’
By Paula C. Johnson and Janis L. McDonald
It Takes a Hard-Driving Team to Uncover the Truth of a Cold Case (1 comment)
‘… Thomas Moore and I became an indivisible army of two on the [Henry H.] Dee and [Charles E.] Moore case. We created a critical mass of trust that carried and insulated us.’
By David Ridgen
The Bonds of Our Reporting: The Civil Rights Cold Case Project (1 comment)
By David Ridgen
The Case of the Supposedly Sealed Files—And What They Revealed
‘I continue to pore through 40,000 pages of FBI records, the entire FBI case file in the Klan’s 1964 killings of [James] Chaney, [Andrew] Goodman and [Michael] Schwerner. Two suspects are still alive …’
By Jerry Mitchell
Compelled to Remember What Others Want to Forget (2 comments)
‘… I realize that the way forward is through doing what we do best. We tell stories. We are journalists. And if we, as journalists, don’t tell these forgotten stories, who will?’
By John Fleming
A Father’s Life Tugs His Son to Revisit Unsolved Crimes (3 comments)
‘More and more I was looking not just at my father’s story but also at the unfinished business of the civil rights movement.’
By Ben Greenberg
Being There to See—With the Challenge of Being Heard
‘I learned quickly that for a black reporter to cover a civil rights story in the Deep South and live to tell about it, I had to blend in.’
By Simeon Booker
To Be a ‘Negro’ Newsman—Reporting on the Emmett Till Murder Trial (1 comment)
By Simeon Booker
Six Decades of Watching Mississippi—Starting in 1947 (4 comments)
‘Late in 1977, we started to tackle the comeback of the [Ku Klux Klan] in Mississippi. In response, a cross wrapped in kerosene-soaked rags was set ablaze just past midnight outside our building.’
By Wilson F. “Bill” Minor
Stories His Images Told: Charles Moore
By Jan Gardner