Students study civil rights murder case
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 1999
As federal agents continue to look into the 1966 slaying of Ben Chester White of Adams County, children in the Natchez-Adams School District are learning about the case for the first time.
&uot;We talked about it briefly today,&uot; said Bettie Minor, 12th-grade government teacher at Natchez High School.
White was kidnapped in 1966, and his body found, riddled with bullets, in the Homochitto National Forest. Three men were charged by the state, but none were convicted.
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Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell has said the only living defendant, Ernest Avants, could be retried on a federal charge because the murder occurred on federal property.
Many of Minor’s students watched ABC’s &uot;20/20&uot; television program Monday night regarding the White case and had strong reactions to it.
&uot;They thought it was terrible,&uot; Minor said. &uot;Some couldn’t believe it happened.&uot;
Ironically, Minor’s government class is only one week away from a chapter on civil rights history in their text books.
&uot;Our unit on civil rights is coming up next week,&uot; Minor said. &uot;I plan to incorporate current events information into the lessons.&uot;
Minor said she will give the children an opportunity to discuss not only the material in their textbooks, but their own views of civil rights cases being revisited today.
&uot;I think part of our responsibility as adults is to share the history with the students,&uot; said Dr. Carl Davis, superintendent of the Natchez-Adams School District. &uot;Students need to be aware of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.&uot;
A teacher’s responsibility is to offer the facts from history without interjecting personal feelings, Davis said.
&uot;Our responsibility is to share in an objective way the basic knowledge and not influence their thinking,&uot; he said.
Davis stressed that the educator’s role is to broaden students understanding of more than just civil rights history involving African Americans.
&uot;I think that’s what our teachers do – share information about all civil rights across all racial boundaries,&uot; Davis said.