June 21, 1964: Three civil rights workers are murdered in Mississippi.
In the summer of 1964, thousands of volunteers - black and white, northerners and locals - launched the Freedom Summer campaign to help black Mississippians register to vote. The presence of these outsiders aroused much fear and resentment in local white communities, which came to a brutal, violent climax on the evening of June 21, 1964, when three activists were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Two of these volunteers - Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - were white, Jewish, and natives of New York; the third, James Chaney, was a black CORE member from nearby Lauderdale County. All were in their early twenties.
The three had been driving through Neshoba County when they were ambushed by Klan members, who beat and shot the men before burying their bodies in a dam. Over a hundred FBI agents were subsequently sent to Mississippi to investigate the workers’ disappearances. Not only did they discover the bodies of the three men they had been searching for, but also the bodies of Henry Dee and Charles Moore, two black Mississippians who had also been murdered in the area months earlier, but whose disappearances had gone unnoticed. The significance of this was not lost on Michael Schwerner’s widow, Rita Schwerner, who remarked to newspapers:
If he [Schwerner] and Andrew Goodman had been Negroes, the world would have taken little notice of their deaths. After all, the slaying of a Negro in Mississippi is not news. It is only because my husband and Andrew Goodman were white that the national alarm had been sounded.
On United States v. Cecil Price, et al. AKA the “Mississippi Burning” trial.
On the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, which took place exactly forty-one years after the murders.
Wow, this happened on the day my mom was born.