By Naomi Pfefferman
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 

Civility replaces violence in 'Last White Night'


In June 1965, during the most violent days of the civil rights movement, 21-year-old Paul Saltzman drove from Toronto to Mississippi to become a freedom fighter with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Just a year before, Klansmen from Neshoba County, Miss., had assassinated the young activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, and the year before that, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot to death outside his Mississippi home.

Within hours of arriving in the Delta, Saltzman—a Canadian Jew whose uncles were prominent union activists in the 1930s—was arrested while participating in a peaceful protest and jailed for 10 days. And several weeks after his release, he found himself on the wrong side of a Klansman’s fist while trying to attend a meeting of the White Citizens Council at the Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood.

Saltzman was about halfway up the front walk when Byron “Delay” De La Beckwith Jr.—a Klansman whose father was later convicted of murdering Evers—surrounded him with a group of three friends. “Hey, buddy, where do you think you’re going?” he asked Saltzman.

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