Timeline of the Mississippi Truth Project

2005 June 21st: Edgar Ray Killen is convicted of manslaughter in connection with the 1964 deaths in Neshoba County of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.
    27th: Rita Bender, widow of Michael Schwerner, writes an open letter to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour challenging him on his “belief that [the conviction] closed the books on the crimes of the civil rights years, and that we all should now have ‘closure.’”
  July Mississippi Coalition for Racial Justice meets for the first time. Inspired by Rita Bender’s letter do to Gov. Barbour, the Coalition is formed “to explore what Mississippi might look like if it were a social justice state,” and is composed of leadership from diverse faith and social communities and organizations.
  August 29th: Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. The work of the Coalition for Racial Justice is suspended as many of the constituency communities and organizations refocus their energy on Coast recovery and related community advocacy initiatives. This experience, however, only reinforces the Coalition’s belief that “economic and community development and civic change are inextricably linked to equity and respect.”
2006 November Mississippi Coalition for Racial Justice resumes its work. Aware of an absence of youth participation, the Coalition reaches out to the Jim Hill Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Club (CRCL)—consisting of students from Jim Hill High School, Murrah High School, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.
2007 December
January
February
March
The Coalition holds a series of meetings at Millsaps College planning “The Welcome Table,” a project intended to foster statewide dialogue on race. The Welcome Table is initially intended to be a yearlong pilot that would then inform a more comprehensive, long-term initiative.
  June 21st: On the steps of the Mississippi state capitol building, the Coalition holds a ceremony initiating “The Welcome Table,” attended by over 300 citizens.
  July Civil rights veterans and scholars of the civil rights movement come together to endorse the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission. Researchers begin to identify primary sources that will reveal structural patterns of abuse.
  October
November
With the Welcome Table pilot year underway, planning shifts to another concept grounded in the Coalition’s challenge to respond to Rita Bender’s letter: the possibility of establishing a statewide truth and reconciliation commission in Mississippi. Initial discussions are held between veterans of the Mississippi civil rights movement and stakeholders from non-profits and academia.
2008 December
January
February
March
In communities throughout the state, exploratory meetings are held to gauge interest in an initiative to establish a statewide truth commission. Meetings are held in Jackson (Dec, Feb, April), Philadelphia (March), and Greenville (April)
  April 26th: A statewide meeting is held in Jackson to gather community partners from the exploratory meetings and the Mississippi Coalition for Racial Justice. Representatives from the Greensboro Truth Commission, the only truth commission enacted in the United States, are in attendance. The meeting culminates with the establishment of two ad hoc administrative groups to work the next phase of what is now called the “Mississippi Truth Project” (MTP): a steering committee, charged with calling future meetings, recruiting and hiring three part-time community organizers to continue to expand the base of support for the project, and setting up a time frame for the establishment of a permanent steering committee; a declaration committee, charged with drafting a declaration of intent—a document that outlines the Mississippi Truth Project’s argument for the establishment of a statewide truth commission.
  May
June
The MTP declaration committee develops a drafted “Declaration of Intent.”
  July
The MTP steering committee develops recruits and hires three part–time organizers, and requests a new draft of the Declaration of Intent.
  September 6th: A daylong training session is held for the part–time organizers, outlining and initiating their work. A new draft of the Declaration of Intent is accepted for distribution throughout the state.
  October
November
December
January
The part–time organizers travel through the state distributing the Declaration of Intent, collecting feedback and questions about the Declaration and the Truth Project, and inviting potential partners to a statewide meeting to be held in January 2009
  November A pilot Welcome Table project begins, with a retreat in November for leaders from across the state.
2009 January 31st: A statewide meeting is held in Jackson. The purposes of the meeting: to convene statewide partners from all phases of the Mississippi Truth Project, to officially endorse the Declaration of Intent, and to initiate the establishment of a permanent steering committee&nmash;whose ultimate task will be the seating of a commission. With the invitation of the media to the declaration signing ceremony, this meeting initiates the public phase of the Mississippi Truth Project. Previously, information about the Truth Project was only spread through grassroots and local channels; media was dissuaded from covering or promoting.
  February
March
April
May
The MTP ad–hoc steering committee secures funding to draft a TRC mandate. Grassroots leaders create five regional groups, representing the geographical diversity of the state. Each regional group elects 3 representatives, including one young person, to serve on a statewide steering committee to draft a TRC mandate.
  May A second Welcome Table retreat is held with citizens from Greenwood.
  Summer MTP steering committee members canvas with local groups to secure support for the project.
  August Visiting scholars Rita and Bill Bender begin teaching a course at UM, which investigates the deliberate denial of education to black Mississippians as a way to limit the franchise.
  September MTP steering committee members participate in a training session and kick off an effort to secure signatures to the declaration of intent.
  October The Welcome Table initiative holds a planning meeting with community representatives from Greenwood, the Gulf Coast, McComb, Oxford, and Philadelphia to plan 5 five community retreats in the Spring 2010. MTP steering committee is provided training in the Transitions Framework by our funding partner, Andrus Family Fund.
  December Members of the MTP project meet with Rev. Peter Storey of South Africa’s TRC, who emphasizes the need to dig deep at the local level to ensure success of the project.
2010 January MTP steering committee members agree that focusing on the local level and increasing engagement there will greatly benefit the project. Stories are the key to that engagement and the steering committee decides to focus on oral histories.
Greenwood participates in its Welcome Table retreat.
  February Researchers focused on documenting and interpreting patterns of discrimination in Mississippi meet in the state to share their research and learn more about supporting local efforts.
  March Oral history training begins around the state, provided by USM’s Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.
Philadelphia and Oxford participate in their Welcome Table retreats.
  April Oral history training continues around the state.
  May Open Society Institute awards a grant to the Winter Institute to support the creation of a coalition of progressive organizations in the state to better secure just policies, especially to improve black male achievement.
  Summer Oral history training around the state.
  October Full-time oral historian is hired to continue training and support local communities as they begin oral history projects.
2011 January Statewide oral history project begins.
  Summer Researchers at Brandeis University and the University of California-Irvine, with support from the Margaret Walker Alexander Center at Jackson State University and the Winter Institute at the University of Mississippi, spent the summer compiling a comparative database of the actions of civic actors, law enforcement personnel, and legal institutions opposing the Civil Rights Movement. This work scanned or photographed records from Jackson, Natchez, McComb and Philadelphia and will provide the basis for a general analysis that explains local patterns of anti-civil rights activism. Digitized records are being made available on the Mississippi Civil Rights Project website.
2012   Work continues on the digitization of several thousand images from four Mississippi communities.
  June Students from McComb and Philadelphia won state competitions and competed at the national level for National History Day, with presentations on the civil rights history in their communities.
  Fall The Winter Institute's think tank members from 3 countries (Northern Ireland, South Africa and the United States) developed a civil rights and human rights timeline for all 3 countries. Click here to see the timeline.
2013 June Statewide partners, with support from the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute and the Winter Institute hosted a youth congress during the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of Medgar Evers' assassination to teach high school students about civil rights history so that they can use that history to interrogate continuing inequities.
  Fall Planning begins for fiftieth anniversary commemorations of Freedom Summer in 2014, including a return by Brandeis researchers and students to continue compiling civil rights records.
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An ad hoc, grassroots group of statewide leaders from religious and non-profits organizations.