Video: Alvin Sykes Uses the Library to Right the Wrongs of the Past

All Library locations are closed today, Monday, September 1, in observance of Labor Day.

Library Life
Local Civil Rights activist Alvin Sykes is a face you should know.

With enough time, effort, and research you really can change history. Just ask Alvin Sykes. Over the past several years, Sykes has built a reputation as a champion of the forgotten victims of racial violence, helping to bring about the re-opening of two Civil Rights cold cases. As Brad Stephens of KCTV5 reports, Sykes did most of that work within the walls of the Kansas City Public Library.

In 1955, a young African-American boy named Emmitt Till was murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His killing fanned the flames of the Civil Rights movement. But Till's murderers were never brought to justice -- that is, until Sykes began digging.

Using the Library's research resources, Sykes discovered an obscure legal opinion that allowed the FBI to reopen the case. Sykes' efforts led to the signing by George W. Bush of the 2007 Till Bill, which allows for the re-opening investigation of unsolved Civil Rights murder cases.

More recently, Sykes has turned his citizen-sleuthing skills to the 1965 murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson, which Sykes says was the inspiration of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. That case, too, has been re-opened.

"The Library is a great equalizer," Sykes tells Stephens.

Click the image below to watch Sykes’ conversation with KCTV5, as part of the station’s "Faces of Kansas City" series.

-- Jason Harper

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