Thanks to students, more FBI files on KKK violence could be released

Published: Feb. 4, 2022

By: Liz Ryan, Lara Nicholson, Rachel Mipro, LSU Manship School News Service

This Hightstown, N.J., class, led by teacher Stewart Wexler, drafted legislation to make public Civil Rights-era murder files.
This Hightstown, N.J., class, led by teacher Stewart Wexler, drafted legislation to make public Civil Rights-era murder files.

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU Manship School News Service) — Aditya Shah was a junior at Hightstown High School in New Jersey in 2015 when he and his AP Government and Politics classmates began studying cold cases involving Ku Klux Klan murders in the South.

Out of curiosity, the students filed a public records request with the help of their teacher, Stuart Wexler, to learn more about some of these cases.

After about a year of waiting, Shah and his classmates had received only a few documents – and those were heavily redacted of vital information despite the cases being so old.

“We realized that this process is inefficient, and it takes too long and that something has to be done to change it,” Shah said in an interview.

From there, the students embarked on drafting a bill and a longshot effort to persuade lawmakers to turn it into law. Congress followed through in 2018, creating the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act, and now the law is finally about to be implemented.

A U.S. Senate committee approved four nominees last week to serve on a national board tasked with reviewing and eventually releasing to the public hundreds of thousands of pages of FBI documents on murder cases from the civil-rights era.

Once the full Senate approves them, the nominees, all university professors, will be able to get to work reviewing FBI files. Congress has appropriated $4 million for the effort, and it raises the possibility of fulfilling the hopes of historians, journalists, and victims’ family members still searching for answers to unsolved homicides.

In Louisiana alone, 15 victims from that era have been included among cases that the FBI has reviewed, and the board members could help prompt the release of more of those records.

Read more at KLFY

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