Oct. 4, 1961

Brenda Travis Credit: Wikipedia

More than 100 students walked out of Burglund High School in McComb, Mississippi, to protest the killing of Herbert Lee and the expulsion of student Brenda Travis, who was given a year behind bars for ordering a hamburger at an all-white lunch counter. 

They marched to city hall, where they knelt in prayer. SNCC leaders who accompanied them — Bob Moses, Chuck McDew and Bob Zellner — were beaten and arrested for contributing to the delinquency of minors. 

Behind bars, Moses wrote, “This is Mississippi, the middle of the iceberg. … There is a tremor in the middle of the iceberg — from a stone that the builders rejected.” 

SNCC started its own high school for the students. Moses taught math, Dion Diamond handled science, and Chuck McDew informed students about history. 

“Nonviolent High” inspires the creation of “Freedom Schools” during Freedom Summer. A half-century after the protest, district officials honored the protesting students and awarded Travis, a longtime civil rights veteran, an honorary degree. 

She told the Associated Press, “You know what the beauty of it is? They made a scapegoat of me, but the students continued to come.”

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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.