Did You Know 3 Civil Rights Workers are Abducted and Murdered on This Day in History

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Michael (Mickey) Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman disappeared near the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 21, 1964. The disappearance of the three civil rights workers garnered national attention. 

The trio arrived in Neshoba County in the aftermath of a church burning. However, they were all participating in the Freedom Summer movement, which was also called the Mississippi Summer Project and was aimed at registering many African-Americans to vote. 

Schwerner and Chaney worked for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the town of Meridian and Goodman was a college student who volunteered to work with the project. Schwerner’s arrival and message of equality was not well received by local Klansmen in Mississippi, which made him a target. 

After speaking with victims from the church burning, the men attempted to go back to Meridian but they were stopped by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, a member of the KKK. Price arrested the men. They were released, never to be seen again.

While traveling back to Meridian the men were stopped again, but this time it was by klansmen who had been alerted by Sheriff Price. The mob took Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney to an unmarked dirt road and killed them. They were each shot and their bodies were burned. 

By the next day, news of their disappearance made it to the White House and the FBI started an investigation. On June 23, the case gained more attention when federal agents found the workers’ burned vehicle. The vehicle was still burning by the time it was discovered, but the remains of the men were not inside.

On August 4, following weeks of searching and a tip from an informant, the remains of the three young men were found in a dam in a nearby town. Culprits were identified but no arrests were made until December 4. Nineteen men, including Price, were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for violating the civil rights of Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney. None of the men who were convicted served more than six years in prison. 

The case was reopened in 2005 and on the 41st anniversary of the murders, Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison. 

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