On June 16, 1964, Cornelius Steele, with his wife Mable and their two children, were four of the ten people gathered at Mt. Zion Church for a regular finance meeting. The meeting ended about 9:00 that night. Cornelius and his family climbed into the cab of their truck and James Cole got in the back to hitch a ride home. Mr. Steele began to drive away from the church, followed by T.J. Miller in his car. They had driven away from the church, followed by T.J. Miller in his car. They had driven only a few yards when a truck and a car came roaring down the dirt road and slid to a halt in front of them. Five white men scrambled out, carrying shotguns and pistols. “Where are the white men?”one demanded. Mr. Steele denied that any whites had been there that night. Apparently appeased, the Klansmen warned, “If you mess around with them, we can’t help you.”The Steele family, Jim Cole, and T.J. Miller were permitted to drive away. Others at the meeting were not so fortunate and were beaten. The church was burned later that night.
On June 21, 1964, Schwerner, Goodman, Chaney stopped to look at the ruins of Mt. Zion Chuch and to see Cornelius Steele and his wife. Mr. Steele told them what he had seen and heard before his lucky escape. He is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery.
Videos referencing Cornelius Steele, his wife Mable Steele, and their two sons:
These videos can also be viewed here.
Neshoba County: African-American Heritage Driving Tour of Philadelphia Mississippi.http://www.neshobajustice.com/documents/RootsofStruggle.pdf