The Mississippi Three

olympic-torchIt was a tragic event that happened before I was born, but it was a time that must be remembered and prevented from ever happening again. This post is my torch… my bringing of light to a dark, dark place in history. May our knowledge enlighten and raise our understanding of the pressure we must still exert to obtain and maintain equality for all to enjoy peace on earth.

James, Andrew, and Michael ~ You will always be remembered.

1964_Mississippi_KKK_Murder_Victims_Chaney_Goodman_Schwerner

Source: Wikipedia

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James Earl “J.E.” Chaney (May 30, 1943 – June 21, 1964)
Andrew Goodman (November 23, 1943, – June 21, 1964)
Michael Henry Schwerner (November 6, 1939 – June 21, 1964)

In 1964, civil rights activist Andrew Goodman volunteered along with fellow activist Mickey Schwerner to work on the “Freedom Summer” project of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to register blacks to vote in Mississippi.

Having protested U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s presence at the opening of that year’s World’s Fair, Goodman left New York to train and develop civil rights strategies at Western College for Women (now part of Miami University) in Oxford, Ohio.

In mid-June, Goodman joined Schwerner in Meridian, Mississippi, where the latter was designated head of the field office. They worked on registering blacks in rural areas to vote. Michael Schwerner had been working closely with an assistant in the office and fellow civil rights activist James Chaney.

Chaney had previously participated in the 1962 Freedom Rides as well as other non-violent demonstrations. He organized voter education classes, introduced CORE workers to local church leaders, helped them get around the counties, and acted as a liaison with other CORE members.

On the morning of June 21, 1964, the three men set out for Philadelphia, Neshoba County, where they were to investigate the recent burning of Mount Zion Methodist Church, a black church that had agreed to be a site for education and voter registration. On their return to Meridian, the three men were stopped and arrested by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price for allegedly speeding. The trio were taken to the jail in Neshoba County where Chaney was booked for speeding, while Schwerner and Goodman were booked “for investigation”. After Chaney was fined $20, the three were released and told to leave the county. Sheriff Price followed them on State Route 69 to the county line, then turned around at approximately 10:30 p.m. On their way back to Meridian the three young men were stopped on a remote rural road by two carloads of KKK members who approached their car and killed all three men.

Sage_Chapel_stained_glassLegacy and memorials:

~A tall stained glass window in Sage Chapel at Cornell University honors the memory of James, Andrew and Michael.
~A memorial at the Mt. Nebo Baptist Church commemorates the three civil rights activists.
~A plaque near Riverside Boulevard at 70th Street in New York City commemorates the three men.
~The sacrifice of the murders contributed to Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, federal legislation to enforce social justice and constitutional rights.
~In 1998 the James Earl Chaney Foundation was set up by his brother Ben Chaney in his honor to promote the work of civil rights and social justice.

Representation in media:

~The band Flobots’ song, “Same Thing,” asks to bring back Chaney.
~Meridian, a novel by Alice Walker, portrayed issues of the civil rights era.
~Phil Ochs wrote his song, “Here’s to the State of Mississippi”, about these events and other violations of civil rights that took place in that state.
~Tom Paxton included the tribute song, “Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney”, on his 1965 album, Ain’t That News.
~In the novel Song of Susannah by Stephen King, Susannah Dean reminisces about her time in Mississippi as a civil rights activist. She thinks about making love to James Chaney and singing the song “Man of Constant Sorrow”.
~The murders were depicted by Norman Rockwell in an illustration titled Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi) published in Look in June 1965. (See my previous post)
~Richard Farina’s song “Michael, Andrew and James” performed with Mimi Farina, was included in their first Vanguard album, Celebrations for a Grey Day, released in 1965.
~Simon and Garfunkel’s song “He Was My Brother” was dedicated to Andrew Goodman who was their friend and a classmate of Simon’s at Queens College.

Reference source: Wikipedia

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15 thoughts on “The Mississippi Three

  1. Pingback: Paintings by a Warrior For Peace | Professions for PEACE

    • Cathy my friend, thank you for your kind comment. Yes this is not my usual ‘uplifting’ post yet it is meant to bring illumination to a dark event. Although it was tragic, these young men were indeed courageous and filled with love, and worth every remembrance.
      Love, Gina

  2. Wow, I didn’t know this story. It is so sad the way humans treat each other sometimes. And it is so inspiring how humans stand up for what is right in spite of threat sometimes.

    • Hi Diana! Thanks so much for this wonderful comment, and I agree: it’s so inspiring to focus on how many humans DO stand up for what is right. That’s what we’re doing here in our loving blog family. Blessings and Hugs, Gina

  3. Gina, We can all agree that bad things happen in this life. It’s how we choose to deal that matters. Where there is darkness, we must strive to bring light. You do just that with this post and all you write in your blog. Thank you.

    • Patricia your kindness means so much! Thank you. I truly endeavour to bring light and illumination as we band together as Warriors For Peace. Every step, every post, every word and action – they all accumulate and help make a difference for good in the world. Hugs, Gina

    • Yes I wanted these courageous young men to be always remembered, and to do all we can to ensure it remains as history (in the past and never repeated). Love and Light to you! With gratitude always, Gina

  4. Gina,
    Thank you for shining your light on this darkness in our past. We will not forget those who sacrificed for peace. Rest in Peace, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.
    Part of me smells corruption in the police who must have been involved with the killing, but I’ve got to forgive and extend love to all beings.
    Thank you for keeping the memory and peace alive. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

    • Thank you dear Kozo! This post is completely about keeping their memory alive, and cheering on those who are simply ‘doing the right thing’ and not considering themselves heroes or anything – just doing what’s right. That they were tragically snuffed out must not be forgotten, and such a foul-smelling wrong needs light brought to it – always in the hopes of helping such events be prevented. May these three young men rest in peace.
      Thank you again for always shining your passionate light into the world and bringing it right here to shine in these comments! Bless your heart my friend. Hugs to you! xo Gina

  5. Dearest Gina,
    I haven’t been here in a while and yet the minute I arrived, I could feel your heart beat through each and every one of these posts here. You have breathed into them your spirit of compassion, kindness, justice and your labour for peace humbles and inspires me. I am with you in remembering that in the darkest times in mankind’s history, the brightest candles shine. Blessings to you and the light you bring to the world. Love, Sharon

    • Dearest Sharon, how wonderful to have your welcome presence visiting! I am so glad you can feel my heart beat in my posts, as each one is offered as a gift to hopefully enlighten and inspire. Your eloquent words of praise warm my heart and are gratefully received as the loving gift that they are. Thank you! And thank you for being a very bright and beautiful candle in the world.
      With so much love and appreciation, Gina

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