Groups Blast Planned Speech by Farrakhan in Mississippi

By Molly Davis | March 25, 2011 | 11:34 AM EDT

Jackson, Miss. (AP) - Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is scheduled to speak Friday at an annual conference of Mississippi civil rights veterans, drawing criticism for his past comments about Jews and Roman Catholics, both instrumental groups in the struggle for equality in the 1960s.

Farrakhan leads the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, which published two books last year on what Farrakhan calls the "anti-black behavior" of Jews.

Leaders of some local businesses, churches and synagogues signed a statement Tuesday criticizing Farrakhan's past statements on Roman Catholicism, Judaism and homosexuality.

Jewish support was critical to the civil rights movement. Jewish leaders helped found the NAACP and many of the white college students who joined black marchers for civil rights protests were Jewish.