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White House pushes to revive Civil Rights-era Cold Affairs Council

The White House has announced its candidates for a supervisory board that will re-examine cases of unsolved murders of black Americans during the civil rights era, long-awaited news more than two years after the commission was established.

the Civil Rights Cold Case Files Review Commission, which was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2019 after receiving majority bipartisan support in Congress, will examine unresolved civil rights cases from the 1950s and 1960s. The advice, proposed by several lawmakers, including Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and now Vice President Kamala Harris, will have the ability to declassify and release government documents in a bid to find out why these cases remain unresolved.

But the board has been dormant under Trump, without any members, and has yet to do any work. Last June Jones wrote a letter to Trump asking him to select board members, to no avail. The Biden administration hopes its efforts to nominate candidates will be successful.

“The White House is hopeful that the Senate will move these candidates quickly,” a White House official told HuffPost.

The nominees are:

  • Dr Clayborne Carson, specialist in the life of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and movements inspired by the late civil rights activist. Carson was selected by Coretta Scott King to lead the Martin Luther King, Jr., a collection of King’s Speeches, publications and more. Dr Carson has taught at Stanford University since 1975.
  • Gabrielle Dudley, Training Archivist at Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Rare Book Archives and Library at Emory University. Dudley received his Masters in Public History and Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archival Studies and Preservation Management from the University of South Carolina.
  • Henry Klibanoff, a veteran journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for his book “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation”. Klibanoff is the director of Unresolved Business Project for Civil Rights in Georgia at Emory University in Atlanta.
  • Margaret Burnham, civil rights lawyer and former state court judge. Burnham, the first African-American woman to sit on the bench in Massachusetts, is currently a professor at Northeastern University School of Law. She is also the founder of the university Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which seeks to document unsolved race-based murders in the Deep South between 1930 and 1970.

The idea for the council arose out of a group of students from Hightstown High School in New Jersey, who drafted the Cold Case Act in 2015 – becoming the first known high school class have a bill signed. A editorial written by one of the students caught the attention of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who will later introduce the bill. Aditya Shah, a high school student at the time, wrote about Wharlest Jackson, treasurer of his local NAACP chapter in the 1960s, who was killed by a car bomb and whose murder, along with at least 100 others, remains unanswered. solved today.

The National Archives and Records Administration must also establish a collection of unresolved records for all unresolved civil rights criminal cases that government offices must publicly disclose – without redaction, according to the law.

The Ministry of Justice defines the cold cases of the civil rights era like civil rights violations that took place before 1980, where a victim was killed because of her race or because she was fighting for civil rights. These cases are unique because the witnesses and defendants are generally older or deceased and the statute of limitations has generally long passed. But the hope is that justice can still be done for families who have been calling for the closure for decades.

“This, you don’t need to have a living attacker,” said Hank Klibanoff News from the courthouse. “It allows the authors – even if they are deceased – to always face the judgment of history. This allows historians, or families and journalists, to come in, watch them, and write stories about what the recording shows happened.

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