Mississippi Civil Rights Workers’ Murders – 50th Anniversary
Three American civil rights’ workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, were shot at close range on the night of June 21–22, 1964 by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County’s Sheriff Office and the Philadelphia Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three had been working on the “Freedom Summer” campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote.
Their murders sparked national outrage and a massive federal investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation referred to this investigation as Mississippi Burning (MIBURN), and eventually found the bodies 44 days later in an earthen dam near the murder site. After the state government refused to prosecute, the federal government initially charged 18 individuals but was only able to secure convictions for seven of them, who received relatively minor sentences for their actions. However, outrage over their deaths assisted in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
For years the FBI had investigated civil rights-related matters, but its role was often controversial and many cases did not result in successful conclusions. The FBI had pursued the depredations of the Ku Klux Klan for years as well. In the case of the missing civil rights workers, these concerns about civil rights and the Klan came together.
- A Byte Out of History: Mississippi Burning
– 1908 Civil Rights Case One of FBI’s First
– Civil Rights in the 60s: Justice for Medgar Evers
– FBI vs. the Klan: Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
– Retired Agent Revisits Cold Civil Rights Era Cases
Among the more notorious murders by Ku Klux Klan members:
- The 1951 Christmas Eve bombing of the home of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) activists Harry and Harriette Moore in Mims, Florida, resulting in their deaths.
- The 1957 murder of Willie Edwards, Jr. Klansmen forced Edwards to jump to his death from a bridge into the Alabama River.
- The 1963 assassination of NAACP organizer Medgar Evers in Mississippi. In 1994, former Ku Klux Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was convicted.
- The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four African-American girls. The perpetrators were Klan members Robert Chambliss, convicted in 1977, Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted in 2001 and 2002. The fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died before he was indicted.
- The 1964 murders of three civil rights workers, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, in Mississippi. In June 2005, Klan member Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter.
- The 1964 murder of two black teenagers, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore in Mississippi. In August 2007, based on the confession of Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards, James Ford Seale, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman, was convicted. Seale was sentenced to serve three life sentences. Seale was a former Mississippi policeman and sheriff’s deputy.
- The 1965 Alabama murder of Viola Liuzzo. She was a Southern-raised Detroit mother of five who was visiting the state in order to attend a civil rights march. At the time of her murder Liuzzo was transporting Civil Rights Marchers.
- The 1966 firebombing death of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer Sr., 58, in Mississippi. In 1998 former Ku Klux Klan wizard Sam Bowers was convicted of his murder and sentenced to life. Two other Klan members were indicted with Bowers, but one died before trial, and the other’s indictment was dismissed.
In the summer of 1964, hundreds of summer volunteers from across America convened in Mississippi to put an end to the system of rigid segregation. The civil rights workers and the summer volunteers successfully challenged the denial by the state of Mississippi to keep Blacks from voting, getting a decent education, and holding elected offices.
As a result of the Freedom Summer of 1964, some of the barriers to voting have been eliminated and Mississippi has close to 1000 Black state and local elected officials. In fact, Mississippi has more Black elected officials than any other state in the union. While the Freedom Summer of ’64 made profound changes in the state of Mississippi and the country, much remains to be accomplished.
The Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference will convene in Jackson, Mississippi both to recognize the accomplishments and those who worked for changes to the politically segregated Mississippi and to discuss how to continue the struggle toward Mississippi reaching its full potential for all of its citizens.
Learn more: http://freedom50.org
Mississippi Freedom Summer – 50th Anniversary Conference
June 25 – 29, 2014
For more: http://freedom50.org/agenda/
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1863-1963 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1964-2009 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)