Many cold cases involving anti-civil rights violence were recorded in the United States in its 1930s. Margaret Burnham, law professor in the Northeastern University, with her students carries out the investigation of such cases.
The story of a 14 year old, named Emmet Till who was kidnapped and murdered after whistling at a white woman is popular. He was falsely judged as the crime was committed by other men. Burnham calls it a brutal assault on criminal justice and a mockery of the rule of law. This trial drew international attention leading to FBI and Department of Justice to coordinate the investigations of homicides prior to 1970.
Federal authorities identified more than 100 cold cases. One such case was of the murder of two 19-year-olds in 1964, in Franklin County, Mississippi. By bringing the victims’ family in the civil court, Burnham showed that the sheriff’s office could have easily prevented the murder. Such investigations become difficult due to many factors like witnesses or subjects dying, lost evidence, lack of technological advances in the past resulting into no concrete proof to rely upon in the present. But the main focus of these authorities is not prosecutions but remembering the accounts of these cold cases.
Burnham says, “We’re filling a gap here that is highly important and essential if the full story of this period is going to be told”. She continues her efforts of preserving the legal documents, videos, audio recordings and many other materials in order to construct a concrete proof and information regarding racial violence. She builds this archive with the help of digital humanities scholars. This will be very useful for scholars working to gain evidences and facts about the particulars of cold cases. She also claims that the archive will be among the most important repository of documents about these cases in the country.