Mississippi Burning is a truly well-crafted movie about three civil rights workers, two of them white and the third black, who were murdered in Jessup County, Mississippi in 1964. This happens in the middle of the civil rights movement. Mississippi Burning is a rivetting drama based on a shocking true story. I feel Mississippi Burning is a great movie displaying the hateful ways of the south in the sixety’s.
The movie starts out with the three civil rights workers driving through Jessup County. They noticed that they were being followed by two cars. One of the mysterious cars started to ram the workers’ vehicle, and they then desperately attempted to escape their attackers. When it seemed they had lost their assailants, the driver noticed a siren
and lights. He pulled over only to be greeted by racial slurs and an eventual bullet to the head. All three workers were executed.
Mr. Ward and Mr. Anderson are the two F.B.I. agents called up for the missing people case. They enter the town and ask around if anyone knows anything about the workers. When confronting the Sheriff and deputies, Ward and Anderson are greeted with hostility and sarcasm from the Sheriff’s Deputy, Clinton Pell. When they question the Sheriff, Roy Stukey, he trivializes the case, proclaiming that the three workers were probably in Chicago, laughing at all the fuss they made.
Ward and Anderson clash throughout the movie, they both have different ideas on what to focus on. Ward is in his late twenty’s, and has been assigned supervisor of the case.He goes by the book and likes to follow proper procedure. Anderson is in his early 50’s and from the south. He likes to get information any way possible. Anderson feels some resentment to Ward because he wasn’t put head of the case.
Ward and Anderson started to interview the black townsfolk about who killed the three boys, the violence escalated. Black churches were burned down and barns were set afire. Some of the blacks who said anything were beaten. One boy was locked in a chicken cook in the middle of a cotton field.Most of the black people refused to say anything, but the ones who did blamed the corrupt Sheriff’s Department. Ward decides to call for more men.
After enough asking around, the F.B.I. agents discover that the civil rights workers’ car in a swamp, half-way submerged. Ward calls for one hundred more men to help comb through the area and for support on the case. This greatly outrages the Sheriff’s Department, the Mayor, and many of the townspeople. It even brings country wide media coverage on the case. Throughout all of this, even more burnings occur, and the crimes become even more heinous.
Ward and Anderson do some checking on the sheriff’s and his deputies, and discover that Clinton Pell is one of the leaders of a local Klan branch. They question him, but he denies everything. The violence level is at an all time high. Lynching even occurs.
Eventually, the bodies of the three civil rights workers are found in the swamp. The whole ordeal heats up quickly, with more evidence mounting up against the Sheriff’s Department. Ward lets Anderson start to do more things his way, and starts to ruthlessly intimidate his suspects. They know that it would be impossible to convict any of the suspects in a state court, so they go after them for civil rights violations. After detaining one of the men, Lester Cowens, they scare him into giving them seven
names. Two of them Sheriff Stuckey and Deputy Clinton Pell. Cowens says that Stukey and another man, Clayton Townley, another KKK leader, planned the murders but were not actually at the scene of the crime. Six out of the seven were convicted of civil rights violations. The sentencing went as follows.
Frank Bailey (a bartender, trigger man): Ten years in federal prison.
Lester Cowens: Three years in federal prison.
Floyed Swiley: Seven years in federal prison.
Clinton Pell: Ten years in federal prison.
Sheriff Ray Stuckey: Acquitted of all charges.
Wesley Cooke: Seven years in federal prison.
Clayton Townley: Ten years in federal prison.
Mississippi Burning had great visuals. It wasn’t so much the special effects, but just the way it presented itself. The town looked very believable as one in the south during 1964. Another aspect of where it did well in looks was the exploding buildings and churches. It gave me an eerie feeling seeing a house go up in flames in the middle of nowhere, surrounded in darkness. Mississippi Burning is a beautifully done movie..This movie had some very tense moments in it. One great one was when they kidnapped and blind folded Clayton Townley and placed him inside a shed, out in the middle of a farm. The blind fold was removed and he found himself tied to a chair, face to face with a man in a KKK style hood. It was slowly removed and the man was revealed to be black. The man then told a story.
“There is a black teenager who lives thirty miles north of this farm. He was walking home from a date with his girlfriend when a truck slowly pulled up behind him. Four white men teenagers jumped out. The whites kidnapped him and drove him to a shed , much like the one we are in now. The boys proceeded to take the black boys pants off, and spread his legs. They then sliced off the boys scrotum and put it in a coffee cup. The boy bled so much his entire lower body was covered in blood. When he was taken too a hospital, he was barely alive. He can barely walk today”
With that, the black man took out a razor and a coffee cup, and removed Clayton’s pants, despite his struggling. But before the man did anything, he asked if Clayton had any information he wanted to share about the civil rights workers. Clayton quickly obliged. The man turned out to be a F.B.I. agent, and was flown out of Mississippi that night.
Another great part was when Lester Cowens was startled awake by a crash of glass. The whole front room mirror in his house had been shattered. Cowens noticed the burning cross in his front yard, and ran out to his truck. He started to drive away,
but was eventually ran off the road by the Klansmen.They dragged him out to a tree and pulled out a noose and put it around Cowens’ neck, all the while he was shouting, “I didn’t say nothing, I didn’t say nothing!” Before Cowens was to be lynched, the F.B.I. raced up and the Klansmen ran. This convinced Cowens to tell the agents everything in exchange for protection. In reality, it was all a hoax thought up by Mr. Anderson. The Klansmen were actually other F.B.I. agents.
Mississippi Burning is a great movie about tolerance, or rather intolerance. It shows how horrible the black people had been treated in Mississippi and the rest of