Della McDuffie, 63
April 25, 1953
Civil Rights And Restorative Justice Project Northeastern University School Of Law Massachusetts
Last updated: 5 months ago
In April 1953 Della McDuffie, 63, was beaten by Sheriff Lummie Jenkins at her place of business in Alberta, Georgia. Mrs. McDuffie operated the café “Della’s Place ”and on this Saturday night, Sheriff Jenkins invaded the establishment to enforce a midnight curfew, firing his gun and beating patrons with a rubber hose. The patrons, about 40 in all, scattered, but Della McDuffie, who used a wheel-chair, was left behind and struck several times by Jenkins.She died within an hour of the beating.
After his wife’s death, her husband Willie McDuffie sought assistance from the Mobile NAACP chapter and from Thurgood Marshall. Marshall persuaded the Department of Justice to investigate, and the case was assigned to the Mobile office of theFBI. When the Mobile office turned over its files to the Civil Rights Section in Washington, that unit of the Justice Department concluded that there had been no civil rights violation, and closed the case.
Witnesses who had given affidavits to the NAACP recanted their statements when questioned by the Mobile FBI. The doctor who examined Mrs. McDuffie right before she died feared implicating the sheriff, as did the local undertaker. Within a year, Willie McDuffie, too, was found dead in a river. His family believes he was murdered because he persisted in investigating his wife’s murder. The following year, James, the son of Della and Willie McDuffie, was forced to flee from Alabama with his family, leaving behind his land and businesses.
The injustices that were visited upon the McDuffie family in the 1950s were brought to light when CRRJ took up the case this year and began to work with the McDuffie family. CRRJ met with family members and witnesses in Alberta, AL and Silver Springs, MD.
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