In a fine Newsweek essay, Why White Supremacists Want a Race War, Stuart Wexler, historian of the Martin Luther King and JFK assassinations, traces the roots of the Charleston gunman.
“Dylann Roof is believed to have murdered the church congregants for the purpose of starting a race war. In doing so, he embodied this ideology, one so insidious and pervasive among white supremacists that Roof may not have recognized its fingerprints on the websites that seem to have radicalized him.”
Known today as Christian Identity, its lineage stretches from Victorian England to JFK’s New Frontier, Wexler notes.
Scholars have missed the implications of this ideology, and the role it played in countless acts of terrorism within the United States going back five decades. Samuel Holloway Bowers, leader of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi from 1964 to 1969, was a Swift acolyte. His organization, which executed the Mississippi Burning murders, engaged in more acts of racial violence than any other hate group in America. Close behind was the National States Rights Party, with Christian Identity zealots staffing almost every senior position. Co-founder Jesse Benjamin (“J.B.”) Stoner, who orchestrated bombings of black churches and Jewish institutions from 1958 through 1963, would tour the Jim Crow south with his friend, Christian Identity minister Charles “Connie” Lynch, inflaming white audiences into vigilante mobs who attacked blacks.
One member of the national States Rights Party, a man named Joseph Milteer, spoke of a plot to kill Kennedy on November 11, 1963. When JFK was killed eleven days later, Milteer was jubilant.
Don Adams, a persistent FBI agent, smelled a rat but his efforts to investigate were quashed.