On March 7, 1948, Rayfield Davis, a 53-year-old janitor at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, Alabama, was beaten to death by Horace M. Miller, a 20-year-old mechanic who also worked at the base. Miller confessed and was spared prosecution, is the subject of a documentary at the Northeastern University titled, ‘Murder in Mobile’.
‘Murder in Mobile’ is the first extended documentary by the creative directors of the Northeastern Films. They have been working on the film since July after they got to know that a street in Mobile was being renamed in honour of Davis, just after the group had unearthed the details of his death.
The story is recreated by actors at the actual scene of the crime. They show the murderer stepping down from the bus prior to his own stop. Following Davis toward the creek, he reacts violently when he is invited to Davis’s home for a drink in celebration of the equality that was being promised by then-President Harry Truman.
In all, six murders of black men in Mobile in the 1940s, by white men who were never prosecuted, were investigated by law students. Their research has provided the students with an education in full. The incident is among hundreds of cases of racial violence that occurred between 1930 and 1970 that have been investigated by the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at the Northeastern University School of Law. Most of these killings went without justice, Simon noted, and they often faded from collective memory because of lost records and passing time. It was not only shown how justice goes right but also how it goes wrong, and to think something can be done about it.