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January 06, 1989 - Image 92

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Willem Dafoe, left, and Gene Hackman, appear in a scene of

Mississippi Burning.

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68

FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 1989

651-5009

Movie Based On Probe
Of Civil Rights Injustices

AVIVA KEMPNER

Special to The Jewish News

T

he first shot of Missis-
sippi Burning is a sim-
ple image of two stark-
ly different looking water
fountains. But what
distinguishes the two water
sources are the identifying
signs above the bubbling
water. For the modern one is
labed "white" and the old-
fangled one is marked "col-
ored." This harsh reality ex-
isted 25 years ago in the
South.
The eradication of these
racial injustices was the focus
of a national campaign dur-
ing the summer of 1964 as an
intense voter registration
drive was being conducted
before the November
presidential election. Called
the Mississippi Summer Pro-
ject, it was established by the
Congress on Racial Equality
(CORE), the Southern Chris-
tian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) and the Student Non-
Violent Coordinating Corn-
mittee (SNCC) to alleviate
racial violence and inequali-
ty in the state of Mississippi.
Joining in on the drive were
white, northern college
students.
During that summer the
nation was shocked into
recognizing the horrors of
racial injustice as three civil
rights workers were brutally
murdered by local whites and
their bodies secretly buried.
Two of them were Jewish nor-
therners, Mickey Schwerner
and Andrew Goodman. The
former was a 24-year-old from
Brooklyn who, with his wife
Rita, had established a CORE
office in Meridan, Miss., in
January 1964. The latter was

a 20-year-old student from
Queens College. The third
victim was James Chaney, a
local black CORE worker.
Their murders are depicted
in the beginning of the film as
the three civil rights workers
are followed and stopped by
members of the KKK. For a
brief few moments the anti-
Semitic tendencies of the Ku
Klux Klan are verbally
demonstrated as the killers
yell "Jew-boy" when they ad-
dress the two white men. Yet
Mississippi Burning, directed
by Alan Parker, is not about
the civil rights workers but
the FBI investigation of the
unfolding of the mystery of
their disappearances.
Heading the investigation
is Ward (played by Willem
Dafoe), an FBI official from-
Washingotn, D.C., experienc-
ed in dealing with civil rights
cases. His partner in the
search for the missing bodies
is FBI agent, Anderson (por-
trayed by Gene Hackman), a
southerner who feels he
understands the local scene
better than Ward. In addition,
Anderson possesses his own
unique techniques about how
to conduct the investigation
which are not always so
"kosher" by FBI standards.
Much of the plot focuses on
Ward's and Anderson's
divergent approaches to the
investigation. It's the FBI
principled nerd Ward versus
the native, ballsy Anderson.
They both face a hostile corn-
munity as the local townspeo-
ple and the sheriff's office do
not "take kind to" strangers,
especially the FBI. A comical
example of how Ward and
Anderson differ in their
strategy is shown in the

Continued on Page 70

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