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FBI Investigates Explosion at Rights Workers’ Residence in Mississippi

July 8, 1964 - Three explosions ripped a gaping hole early today in the front wall of a home occupied by 10 civil rights workers in McComb, Mississippi. Two were injured slightly.

The concussion shattered the windshield of an automobile in the driveway of the house and broke three windows in two homes across the street.

FBI agents began an immediate inquiry into the bombing, the third of its kind in this southwestern Mississippi city of 12,000 since the civil rights campaign began June 21.

FBI agents, who received some assistance from local police, state troopers, and Pike County Sheriff’s deputies, arrived four hours after the blast, which came at 3:50 a.m., Central standard time.

Those injured were Curtis Hayes, a 21-year-old McComb Negro and field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Dennis Sweeney (pictured), 21, a white student volunteer from Portland, Ore.

Flying glass peppered the right side of Mr. Hayes, who said he had been thrown out of a bed that stood only four feet from where one of the blasts tore a hole 14 inches in diameter and six inches deep in a concrete walk. He suffered cuts on his face, chest, back, arms, and legs. Mr. Sweeney received cuts on his face and arms.

One FBI agent said it was a miracle that Mr. Hayes had escaped with his life. Some local authorities expressed doubt that he had been sleeping in the bed next to the window under which the blasts occurred and implied through veiled remarks that the workers themselves had set off the explosions.

A policeman was asked if it did not appear that someone had sought to kill the workers. He laughed sarcastically, spat tobacco juice into a flower bed, and replied, “Naw.”

Despite the bombing, leaders of the Mississippi Project in McComb and in Jackson asserted that they would continue their activities in the southwestern part of the state. This area has been the scene of anti-Negro terrorism since last December.

“We are all as determined as ever that we are going to stick this thing out,” said Mendy Samstein. The 25-year-old New Yorker is a SNCC field secretary and state coordinator of the summer project.

“We’re going to show the [Negro] people that we are willing to share their suffering,” said Mr. Samstein, who is white. “We hope in this way to heighten the country’s and the Federal Government’s sense of responsibility for breaking down this state of lawlessness.”

Mr. Samstein and the others arrived Sunday and began preparations for a voter registration drive, using the house as a headquarters.

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