Aug. 27, 1965

Credit: Courtesy of The Natchez Democrat

Natchez NAACP President George Metcalfe had been so successful in leading voter registration efforts that more than 8,000 African Americans had been added to the voting rolls. He had also petitioned the local school board for black students to attend. 

Members of the Ku Klux Klan, some of whom worked with Metcalfe at the Armstrong Tire plant at Natchez, decided to attack him, planting a bomb inside his car. When he turned on the engine, the bomb exploded. The phone rang at the NAACP office with news that Metcalfe had been killed, but it was a lie. He miraculously survived. 

More than 1,000 people lined the streets that night. The Deacons for Defense came in and provided protection for Black Mississippians. The Silver Dollar Group was believed to be responsible for the assassination attempt. Nobody was ever charged. 

The day after the bombing, Black leaders presented demands to city officials, calling for them to denounce the KKK, desegregate schools and other public facilities, use courtesy titles such as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” with Black men and women and appoint Black members to the school board. Those demands helped pave the way for change in Natchez.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.