This is a Mississippi story. On January 11 1966, a gold-toned Plymouth Fury carrying a group of voting-rights activists crashed on a stretch of road near the small town of Sidon in the west of the state. Two African-American women, Birdia Keglar and Adlena Hamlett, were killed on that day. That much is certain. But in their deaths is buried a painful question that has gnawed at three generations of their families. Was this an ordinary car wreck, or were the two women, who had previously been threatened, shot at and burned in effigy because of their efforts to register black voters, targetted on that road? Engineered car crashes were a known tactic by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s. Violent crimes against African-Americans were rarely investigated or punished. And even if the women were murdered by white supremacists, was it better, as some members of Keglar's own family believed, to leave such suspicions left unspoken?
Now, 41 years after that crash, Keglar's cousin, Gwen Dailey, is campaigning for the FBI to open an investigation into her death. Despite the passage of time, the lack of recorded evidence, and the death of what few witnesses there may have been to that accident long ago, it is not an entirely unreasonable hope.
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