JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) –
A family whose tragic story helped shape the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement shared their past with the state’s future. The family of Vernon Dahmer Sr. made a donation to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, hoping future generations will learn the sacrifices made for equality.
“That’s parts of the old truck,” said Vernon Dahmer Jr. pointing to the rusted metal from their green family truck inside a glass display case.
He and brother Harold were taken back 51 years to the night in Forest county that their home was burned by the Klan.
Friday the Dahmer family toured the exhibit honoring their father Vernon Senior, a store owner and farmer who registered blacks to vote. He died from burns while rescuing his family.
“The klansmen were shooting through the truck at my Dad who was standing in a doorway, catercorner across that truck, firing back at them,” said Dennis Dahmer.
The Dahmer family is donating items from that fateful night January 10, 1966, to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Included is a bullet-riddled fender from the family truck, scorched steering wheel and odometer panel.
A telegraph of condolence from President Lyndon B. Johnson is also in the collection.
Depicted on the wall is a giant photograph of four sons in their military uniforms looking at the charred slab of their home.
Six of the seven sons served in the U.S. Military.
Vernon Dahmer Jr., then a Senior Master Sgt. in the Air Force, had served 15 years when his father was killed.
“To come home and see what had happened was totally devastating, but then again I knew that we had to move forward because my family was homeless,” said Vernon Jr. “My Dad had died. My little sister had been burned.”
The Dahmers are happy with the tribute paid to their family in the tapestry of Mississippi history.
Ellie J. Dahmer wiped away tears as she gazed at the wall with her husband’s picture and her son’s with bowed head in the black and white images of the past.
“That was a terrible night,” said the widow. “My husband was returning fire. We were trying to keep her quiet so they wouldn’t know where to shoot us at. But she was screaming so loud ‘Lord have mercy. We gonna get burned up in the house alive’, and I thought we were too”.
The gallery contains images of the dark days of Mississippi’s past and the African Americans who fought and died to change it.
“What this portrays of my family and what happened to us that night, I’m pleased with the representation that’s shown,” said Bettie Dahmer. My wish is that the younger people would get an opportunity to actually see it”.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opens December 9.
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