Brattleboro college students connect with Civil Rights historical past | Historical past

There can be unexpected educational opportunities in education. The subject of this article outlines how one of these has evolved over several years.

I taught United States history, specifically the civil rights movement, at Brattleboro Union High School. The students and I had arrived at the murder of three civil rights workers carried out as part of the Mississippi voter rights campaign in the summer of 1964. It was Michael ‘Mickey’ Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. Chaney was from Meridian, Mississippi and was African American. The other two were northerners and whites. It was June 21, 1964 when the three workers were killed near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

One of the students in this 1987 class was Posey King. She was from Putney and her name caught my attention. I remember asking her where her name came from, and that’s how this story begins.

Posey King stated that it was named after a family friend, Buford Posey. She said Buford Posey was instrumental in discovering the bodies of the three civil rights activists who were allegedly murdered by local clansmen in collaboration with the local sheriff’s department.

Posey King had told me that Buford was working as an informant and was actually attending a clan meeting where Klan men bragged about what they did to the three civil rights activists and how they disposed of them. As an informant, Buford had helped guide the authorities to the location of the three bodies.

I wanted to speak to Buford and contacted King’s family in Putney. From Robert King, the father of Posey King, I learned that Posey’s father had met Buford Posey in 1966 and that Buford Posey stayed with the Kings in Putney every year from late spring to early autumn from 1969.

Buford Posey had been targeted and part of his protection plan was to live in Putney.

Robert King, Posey King’s father, explains, “We live on Putney Mountain and I worked on a farm. They are all locals. It’s very quiet. (Bufords) a country boy. So he felt very comfortable being here. He has never slept any night since his time in World War II. We had to warn people, ‘Don’t sneak up on the house. There’s a good old vet worried about what’s going on. ‘ And so he just felt very safe here. When I visited him in Philadelphia, Mississippi, he was always armed. It had a .38 automatic and a derringer. He was brought up at gunpoint. “

Robert King met Buford Posey at Antioch College in Putney.

King says, “Antioch was trying to reinvent itself as a teacher training school for rural and urban neighborhoods, Hispanic and African American, and low-income people. And that’s how I got to know the Buford. He was the first white member of the NAACP in Mississippi in 1946. “

Buford Posey had been the target of violent attacks after telling the FBI that he knew Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and other law enforcement officers had worked with the Klan to assassinate civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. State trials and history proved Buford Posey’s information to be correct, and he remained a pariah among many Mississippi conservatives.

Buford Posey was a middle-class journeyman, educated and politically connected. It was a source of strength for many locals. He knew Deputy Cecil Price, Edgar Ray Killen, and Sheriff Lawrence Rainey, all of whom were the targets of the investigation into the murders of the three civil rights activists. I called Deputy Cecil Price once from my classroom. Price told me, “I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve been spending my time. ”He was persistent.

It took no effort on Buford’s part to convince the authorities of his trustworthiness, and he became an informant. The authorities found out about him. Buford would deliver news.

Buford Posey knew Mickey Schwerner. Buford recalled, “He was a condescending guy. I think he was only 24. I said, Mickey, it doesn’t give a shit what you think about how they feel. I will tell you what they are going to do. They will kill you and everyone with you. They commit suicide to go to Neshoba County because the sheriff is a Klansman, the deputy sheriff, and they have 39 deputy deputies. Every damn one of them is a member of the Klan. So Neshoba County is not your place and James Chaney was there. They were always together. I said they are sure to kill you. You and James Chaney and everyone you bring. Of course, he paid no heed to me or the other young guy, Andrew Goodman. It arrived in Mississippi, hell, I don’t think it was ever unpacked. His first trip from Meridian was to Neshoba County. Of course, all three of them were killed as I told them to. It was June 21, 1964. The phone rang. I read until about 2 a.m. I had just gone to sleep and the damn phone rang. And it was … she didn’t give me a name. I told her I recognized her voice. I was so damn sleepy. She said we took care of three of your friends tonight. You are the next one. And hung up. “

On the night of the boy’s murders, Edgar Ray Killen called Buford Posey and said, “Well, we took care of your friends, Buford.”

Buford Posey was told that “James Meredith was buried alive. He wasn’t dead when they buried him. As soon as that person hung up, I called the FBI office in Jackson. “

Years later, in the early 2000s, I took a group of educators to Philadelphia, Mississippi, on a field study course. One of the targets was Mount Zion Church in Philadelphia, which was destroyed in 1964 after a voting assembly there. We went where Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney went. We went to the Neshoba District Jail where they were detained.

In Philadelphia, Mississippi, I was waiting at the pump outside a grocery / gas station with college students (mostly adult educators seeking recertification) on an excruciatingly hot July day and an African American came by. I talked to him. Finally, I said someone told me that civil rights workers were buried nearby. I’ve been looking for Olen Burrage’s property. The three bodies had been found on Burrage’s property, in an earth dam.

He drove us as far as he wanted, led my caravan towards Olen Burrage’s property and said he wouldn’t go any further – too dangerous. He said, “No, you’re alone up there.”

It took me three lots to finally find Burrage’s home. I talked to his sister. My students, who parked in the driveway, told me that Burrage’s sister immediately went to her house and made a call, probably to her brother Olen Burrage, to warn him that I was on my way.

I got to Olen Burrage and knocked on a screen door. No Answer. I knocked again, no answer. I knocked the third time, a little louder, no answer. Finally I opened the screen door and knocked on the inside door, no answer. I just wanted to leave. When I was about to turn around, someone tapped my right shoulder from behind with an index finger. I turned around. My heart raced when I faced Olen Burrage. We shook hands and started a conversation. I wanted to go to the dam to see the property with my students. He refused, but thanked politely for asking for permission. He stated that he never let people on his property. If someone tries to do this, Burrage calls the authorities to have them arrested. Burrage’s friends have long been believed to have three bodies after killing Michael ‘Mickey’ Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, and what do we do with those bodies now?

According to Robert King in Putney today, “That culture is still there today. It’s very sobering. “

Posey died in his home in Hattiesburg in 2015 at the age of 90.

Buford Posey can be heard at the University of North Carolina (

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