White House names nominees for Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board

The review board is charged with reexamining cases in the 1950s and 1960s that have gone unsolved

New nominees for the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board have just been announced by the White House.

As reported by HuffPost, the selectees will be the first on this committee.

The review board was originally established in 2019, created to review numerous civil rights cases, such as lynchings and race-related killings, that have gone unsolved.

White House
The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House on March 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The bill approving the review board states that it will be able to reexamine old civil rights cases that have gone unsolved, requiring “redacted records or records for which public disclosure is postponed to be reviewed annually.” All cases considered might fall in the time period of Jan. 1, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1979.

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The four nominees selected by the White House for the review board are Stanford University professor Dr. Clayborne Carson, Emory University archivist Gabrielle Dudley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Henry Klibanoff and civil rights lawyer Margaret Burnham.

Carson was director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, which collects many of Dr. King‘s publications and speeches. Dudley, who was an M.A. in Public History and Master of Library and Information Science, works at Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.

READ MORE: Kristen Clarke to become first Black woman to head DOJ Civil Rights Division

Klibanoff, who also works at Emory, is the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project director. Burnham is a professor at Northwestern University and founded the school’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which documents unsolved racially-motivated murders in the deep south.

The review board was originally established in 2019, created to review numerous civil rights cases that have gone unsolved, particularly since the 1950s and 1960s. It was sparked by a group of New Jersey high school students, as reported by Courtroom News, who, after learning about the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four Black girls, drafted an early version of the bill that would help hasten the process of so many race-related killings that had gone cold decades before.

The formal proposal of the review board was then drafted in 2018 by then-Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Ted Cruz of Texas and Kamala Harris of California.

Although the panel was signed into law by former President Donald Trump the following year, the board, itself, went cold. Until now, no appointments of board members have been made, despite an unsuccessful attempt Jones made by writing a letter to Trump asking him to select members.

In the letter, according to the Alabama Political Reporter, Jones wrote to Trump in June 2020, that recommendations for board members were sent to the White House, but nothing was done. In addition, the $1 million budget allocated to the board had gone unused.

“As our country is once again grappling with important questions related to civil rights,” Jones wrote, “I urge you to appoint the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board as expeditiously as possible and fulfill the promise of this important legislation.”

In a statement, the White House said that it “hopes the Senate will quickly move these nominees.”

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