The name "Ku Klux Klan" began to be used by several independent groups. Beginning in the 1950s, for instance, individual Klan groups in Birmingham, Alabama began to resist social change and blacks' improving their lives by bombing houses in transitional neighborhoods. There were so many bombings in Birmingham of blacks' homes by Klan groups in the 1950s that the city's nickname was"Bombingham".
During the tenure of Bull Connor as police commissioner in the city, Klan groups were closely allied with the police and operated with impunity. When the Freedom Riders arrived in Birmingham, Connor gave Klan members fifteen minutes to attack the riders before sending in the police to quell the attack. When local and state authorities failed to protect the Freedom Ridersand activists, the federal government established effective intervention.
In states such as Alabama and Mississippi, Klan members forged alliances with governors' administrations. In Birmingham and elsewhere, the KKK groups bombed the houses of civil rights activists. In some cases they used physical violence, intimidation and assassination directly against individuals. Many murders wentunreported and were not prosecuted by local and state authorities. Continuing disfranchisement of blacks across the South meant that most could not serve on juries, which were all white.
According to a report from the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, the homes of 40 black Southern families were bombed during 1951 and 1952. Some of the bombing victims were social activists whose work exposed themto danger, but most were either people who refused to bow to racist convention or were innocent bystanders, unsuspecting victims of random violence.
Among the more notorious murders by Klan members:
• The 1951 Christmas Eve bombing of the home of NAACP activists Harry and Harriette Moore in Mims, Florida, resulting in their deaths.
• The 1957 murder of Willie Edwards, Jr. Klansmenforced Edwards to jump to his death from a bridge into the Alabama River.
• The 1963 assassination of NAACP organizer Medgar Evers in Mississippi. In 1994, former Ku Klux Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was convicted.
• The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four African-American girls. The perpetrators were Klan members Robert Chambliss,convicted in 1977, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted in 2001 and 2002. The fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died before he was indicted.
• The 1964 murders of three civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Mississippi. In June 2005, Klan member Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter.
• The 1964 murder of two black teenagers, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles EddieMoore in Mississippi. In August 2007, based on the confession of Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards, James Ford Seale, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman, was convicted. Seale was sentenced to serve three life sentences. Seale was a former Mississippi policeman and sheriff's deputy.
• The 1965 Alabama murder of Viola Liuzzo. She was a Southern-raised Detroit mother of five who was visiting the state inorder to attend a civil rights march. At the time of her murder Liuzzo was transporting Civil Rights Marchers.
• The 1966 firebombing death of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer Sr., 58, in Mississippi. In 1998 former Ku Klux Klan wizard Sam Bowers was convicted of his murder and sentenced to life. Two other Klan members were indicted with Bowers, but one died before trial, and the other's indictmentwas dismissed.
There was also resistance to the Klan. In 1953, newspaper publisher W. Horace Carter received a Pulitzer prize for reporting on the activities of the Klan. In a 1958 North Carolina incident, the Klan burned crosses at the homes of two Lumbee Native Americans who had associated with white people, and they threatened to return with more men. When the KKK held a nighttime rally...