It 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.
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.
Legacy 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