Date: Wed, 19 Jun 1996 06:13:48 -0500
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Black Church Burnings: Research Report Hate Groups Hate Crimes in Nine Southern States
By Center for Democratic Renewal, June 1996
The Center for Democratic Renewal recognizes that the increased attack on Southern Black churches is part of a growing national trend of violent intolerance. Southern Black churches, particularly in rural areas, are the heart and soul of the Black community. That they are the target of arsonists across the South is neither random nor accidental. The links between white supremacy and attacks on Black churches have been historically documented and are well known. What has not been so obvious, except to the victims of such attacks, is that the burning of Black churches in the South has never stopped. A particularly virulent resurgence of these hate crimes has emerged over the past six years, increasing in numbers and intensity with each passing month.
In some recent cases, the links between the arsonists and hate groups have been documented. In most cases the perpetrators are unknown. CDR maintains that this link is evident, whether or not a formal association exists. White supremacist ideology is the driving force behind hate rhetoric and the use of violence to threaten and intimidate. The attacks on Black churches are acts of domestic terrorism and must be placed within the context of white supremacy.
The purpose of this briefing paper is to provide a glimpse into the world of hatred that exists in the states most affected by Black church burnings and bombings. This paper does not attempt to report a comprehensive list of hate groups and racially motivated incidents of violence, but instead illustrates the flavor of organized hatred in the South. This short report shows that the Klan is not dead, but is thriving. The old Klan-type of organized racism is augmented by groups with different names but motivated by the same hatred, and spewing the same intolerant rhetoric that is easily transformed, by some, into violence. The following is a partial listing of examples of hate crimes that took place in the 1990s and of organizations that existed during the same time in the nine Southern states where attacks on Black churches have taken place:
Wedowee became the focus of national attention in 1994 when the high school principal, Hulond Humphries, threatened to cancel the prom if inter-racial couples planned to attend. He announced to the school that a young woman of mixed race had been a "mistake." The final result of racial tensions provoked by the divided community was a school that was burned to the ground. Following close behind the racial incidents were appearances by Nathan Thomaston and his Klan from Heard County, Georgia, and Richard Barrett's Nationalist Movement.
Two juveniles and one adult were arrested in April 1994 for crossburnings at a mostly white mobile home park in Florence. Police said there were no links between the crossburnings and a fire that gutted the trailer of a black family that lived there.
In February 1993, A warning card from the Knights of the KKK was left on the door of a Five Points church whose membership includes blacks. In Prattville in February 1992, racial slurs, swastikas, and satanic symbols were burned into the walls and pews of a black church.
After a series of violent attacks on homeless African American men, in April 1992, a black homeless man was murdered while sleeping in Birmingham by four skinhead members of the Aryan National Front and Confederate Hammerskins.
In July 1991, the Chambers County Courthouse ended the 159-year-old practice of recording marriages in books marked white and colored. This happened one day after an Associated Press article was published about it.
On March 31, 1990, Darren Jessie, a young black man who was dating a white woman, was shot to death while sitting in his car outside a grocery store in Mobile. A second victim was paralyzed. A white man was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
White Supremacists in Alabama
KKK, Confederate Knights of Alabama; Mobile
In March, 1993, a black woman in Little Rock was raped by two white men who claimed they liked to kill black people.
Harrison is the homebase of Thom Robb of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which, since the demise of the Invisible Empire, is the largest Klan faction in the US. Robb's KKK compound in Zinc is the site of an annual meeting of Christian Identity believers, a National Klan congress, and a so-called non-Klan related gathering. Robb's guests include skinheads, neo-Nazis, and members of Aryan Nations, as well as Klansmen.
In 1993, the Knights started a Klan Kid Korp to "help steer children in the right direction." This group is for ages from birth to 12 years.
In November, 1992, Ralph Forbes, a member of the American Nazi Party, received over 6,000 votes in his run for state Congress.
White Supremacists in Arkansas
AKIA (Inter-Klan publication); Camden
A Chatham County teen, the son of a Ku Klux Klan leader, was indicted in 1993 for spraypainting "KKK" and "move or else" on the pickup truck of a black family living in an all-white neighborhood. A picture of the Georgia flag was painted on the truck window.
A black couple seeking to buy a house in Austell, a suburb of Atlanta, were dissuaded when the house was vandalized with red "KKK" symbols and "niger go home."
On July 18, 1993, four men dressed in white sheets doused a cross in front of the home of a white woman who lived with a black man.
White Supremacists in Georgia
KKK, Confederate Forces Knights of the KKK; Conyers
Five Ku Klux Klan members were indicted in 1991 for burning nine crosses in the Shreveport area to intimidate blacks. Crosses were burned in front of the NAACP offices, two public schools, the home of a black family, the federal courthouse, a church, an apartment complex, and along two roadways.
In July, 1991, in St. John the Baptist Parish, a black youth was murdered by a teenager who wanted the thrill of killing a black person.
Louisiana gained national attention through its native-son, David Duke, the presidential candidate who made racism respectable. In his races for various offices, Duke denied that he was a racist, even though his Klan activity and his founding of the National Association for the Advancement of White People is well documented. His racist rhetoric prompted thousands to vote for him and financially support his campaign.
Two glass bottles of gasoline were thrown through a window of a black family's home in Raceland. A young white man was charged with aggravated arson in February 1993.
In April 1993, the only person of color in a group of youths in New Orleans was struck and dragged by a car occupied by white men who yelled racial slurs at the black college student.
A crossburning took place outside a black student's dormitory at LSU in January 1992, and in February, a cross was burned at a black family's home in Frisco.
Five crosses were burned within an hour in predominately black neighborhoods in Shreveport in May 1991. Nine Louisiana Klansmen pleaded guilty to burning the crosses.
In August 1990, a cross was burned on the front lawn of a black couple in Bastrop. Vandals broke a window in the home, and wrote on a towel the message, "We are the KKK of Mississippi. We are about 8,000 strong. You can't stay in a white neighborhood in the south you will die. You stay you die."
Chad Sullivan, 16, was accused of shooting a 59-year-old black woman in New Orleans on September 14. Sullivan had white supremacist and satanic slogans tattooed on his body and on the walls of his apartment.
White Supremacists in Louisiana
KKK, Bayou Patriots Knights; Choudrant
The Mississippi Senate voted in February 1995 to abolish slavery -- 130 years after the rest of the country. Mississippi is the only state that never ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, holding out because slaveowners were not compensated for freed slaves.
The Mississippi Knights of the Ku Klux Klan planned a rally March in Greenwood to display its support for current legislative proposals to end affirmative action. The Klan also supports the idea of quarantining all people infected with HIV to "safeguard America's health."
In Puckett in August 1993, a man wearing a white hood warned a white woman to quit letting black children swim in her pool.
Approximately 250 marchers turned out in Meridian and Philadelphia on April 27, 1991, for a march sponsored by the Confederate Knights of America. About 30 skinheads acted as security for the march, and later that evening, a triple crossburning was held near Decatur.
Fliers praising blacks for killing each other were distributed in Jackson in November 1991.
The Nationalist movement, based in Learned, expanded its "Warrior Training Range" to include Skinhead indoctrination and weapons training.
On May 1, 1990, the father of the Confederate Knights chaplain fired shots into a car occupied by five black men in Forest. About 60 Klansmen attended a rally on the chaplain's property on May 19.
Three inmates of the Picayune jail were visited in July 1990 by men wearing Klan masks. The men placed a knife to the throat of one inmate and threatened to kill him. A police officer and jailer were implicated by an FBI investigation.
White Supremacists in Mississippi
Christian Patriots Defense League; Rome
On April 1, 1993, in Jacksonville, three firebombs were thrown at a gay bar.
In July 1992, a black man was attacked in Asheville by a self- proclaimed skinhead.
Several downtown shopping areas and parking lots were victim to the distribution of Klan literature in March 1992.
Copies of the neo-Nazi newspaper Racial Loyalty were distributed at the Janesville Mall in January 1993.
In August 1992, a note with a swastika and neo-Nazi literature were taped to a black-owned business.
Skinhead soldiers from Ft. Bragg killed a Black couple, execution style, who were walking down the street in Fayetteville, after determining they would go "hunt" some blacks.
White Supremacists in North Carolina
KKK, Confederate Knights of America; Huntersville, Concord
A black Fort Jackson soldier was taunted by dozens of race fans using racial slurs during an auto race in Columbia in March 1994.
In Apri 1994, a KKK calling card was left in the mail box of a black woman who had just moved into a new neighborhood in Easley.
Melissa Watson Harvey, 21, of Blacksburg, was sentenced to public service and one year probation after pleading guilty to trying to hire a KKK member to kill her cousin's black boyfriend in September 1992.
A cross was burned in the yard of an African American family on February 14, 1993 and a racial slur was painted on another black family's driveway following Ku Klux Klan marches on Saturday in Summerville and Moncks Corner. A white male, Bailey Sanders, was arrested and charged in the crossburning.
Carl M. Wildes, 42, was arrested and indicted for a crossburning at the home of a black neighbor August 21, in Georgetown. The indictment alleges that Wildes and accomplice Harry Cameron, sought to scare the family from the predomately white community. Wildes resigned as president of majority-black Local 565 of the United Paper Workers International headquartered in Nashville.
In June 1990, a cross was burned at a trailer park in North Charleston. A cross was also burned in front of an apartment building in Rock Hill in August, and in the yard of a black man in Columbia in October.
A grocery store and black owned automobile were arsoned in two separate incidents in York on July 11, 1990.
Skinheads harassed and threatened black residents in two Spartanburg neighborhoods in August 1990.
White Supremacists in South Carolina
KKK, Disciples of the KKK; Ware Shoals
The babysitter of a white woman with a biracial child in Tracy City had a cross burned in her yard in March, 1994.
Pulaski, Tennessee is the "home" of the Ku Klux Klan--where the Klan was founded in the post-Civil War era. It remains the site of annual Klan "homecoming" rallies, generally just in time to protest the Martin Luther King holiday.
In 1990, Knoxville was the city chosen by neo-Nazi Gary Gallo to open a National Democratic Front office and bookstore. Gallo was quoted as saying "I am a white nationalist. I love my own kind. . . And I hate, I hate those who would destroy my race for their own nefarious purposes. I hate the capitalists, Communists and Jews, for they are out to destroy my people. It is us or them." The National Democratic Front calls for a division of United States land according to race, with some land allotted to "multiracialists," those who wish to live with other races.
In October, 1994, a tenant renting an apartment from Thelma de la Beckwith, wife of the man convicted of killing civil rights activist Medgar Evers, held off police officers for eight hours as he fired random shots and shouted about Adolf Hitler. After he was subdued and captured, police found Lee Smith's apartment decorated with Nazi paraphernalia.
White Supremacists in Tennessee
KKK, Guardians of American Liberty; Mosheim
In August 1991, a home that was under contract to be sold to a black couple was arsoned by a white man who didn't feel black people should move into his neighborhood.
On January 19, 1992, in Fredericksburg, a cross was burned at a school during a program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On March 3, 1992, in Winchester, racist slogans were painted on two downtown businesses.
On May 1, 1992, in Motley, a cross was burned at a black family's home.
On May 10, 1992, in Roanoke, a cross was burned at the home of a white woman and a biracial child.
In August 1993, a black couple's car was destroyed by fire and they were sent a death threat by a white supremacist group who identified themselves a the VA Aryan Chapter III. The racist group claimed responsibility for the arson.
White Supremacists in Virginia
Skinheads, Third Way of America; Arlington
The Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR) is a national non-profit clearinghouse for information on white supremacist groups throughout the world. Founded in 1979 as the National Anti-Klan Network, CDR monitors, analyzes and organizes against hate groups and hate group activity.
BLACK CHURCH BURNINGS IN THE SOUTH STATISTICAL DATA
Prepared by: Center for Democratic Renewal
Note: The Center for Democratic Renewal maintains an up-to-date listing on Black Church burnings in the south. General data sources include information from federal and local agencies, press clippings and victim reports. The numbers are subject to change on a daily basis.
BLACK CHURCH BURNINGS, FIREBOMBINGS, VANDALISMS JANUARY 1990 - APRIL 1996
1. January 5, 1990--Apostolic Faith Assembly Church, Louisville,
Statistics:>From January 1990 - December 1994 there were 33 incidents of church arsons.
>From January 1995 - December 1995 there were 18 incidents of church arsons.
>From January 1996 - May 1996 there have been 29 incidents of church arsons.
Note: Out of the 80 cases listed above 5 were vandalisms:
Bucks Chapel Church- Sumter County, Alabama
Note: Out of the 80 cases above 6 were determined to be causes other than arson.
These Church fires remain on the list as notes of possible suspect findings:
Bluff Road U.M.C., Columbia, South Carolina - Electrical
Fires since 1990 that have occured around Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday:
January 1990 - 2
Total church fires occurring around King Holiday since 1990 - 13