Schwermer was from New York. Though both were young, they were veterans of civil rights work in Mississippi. Goodman was on his first trip there, having signed on to be a Freedom Summer volunteer. The narrative then looks closely at the investigation into their disappearance, complicated by the complicity and silence of local law enforcement and white community leaders involved in or tied to the Ku Klux Klan, and then at the trials — the first one in , the second one in The ugliness of racism comes through loud and clear in the investigation and initial trial, but forty-one years after the murders, when the second trial took place, there is hope inherent in the markedly changed attitudes.
Don Mitchell conducted a number of interviews in addition to drawing on ample additional source material to pen this arresting account full of the tension of the times. The year-old Harris was keeping tabs on the three civil rights workers' every move. Oliver R. Warner, known as Pops, was a Meridian grocery owner. Warner, 54, was a member of the White Knights. Tucker, 36, was not a member of the White Knights, but he was a building contractor who worked for Burrage. Bowers , who served with the U.
Navy during World War II, was not apprehended on December 4, , but he was implicated the following year. And in a war, there have to be some who suffer. It must be an extremely swift, extremely violent, hit-and-run group. Although federal authorities believed many others took part in the Neshoba County lynching, only ten men were charged with the physical murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Before his friend Lawrence A. Rainey was elected sheriff in , Cecil R. Price worked as a salesman, bouncer, and fireman. The year-old Price was the only person who witnessed the entire event.
He arrested the three men, released them the night of the murders, and chased them down state highway 19 toward Meridian, eventually re-capturing them at the intersection near House, Mississippi. Price and the other nine men escorted them north along highway 19 to Rock Cut Road, where they forced a stop and murdered the three civil rights workers.
Killen went to Meridian earlier that Sunday to organize and recruit men for the job to be carried out in Neshoba County. Barnette, 36, went to his Meridian home to take care of a sick family member. Barnette owned a Meridian garage and was a member of the White Knights. Alton W. Roberts, 26, was a dishonorably discharged U. Marine who worked as a salesman in Meridian. According to witnesses, Roberts shot both Goodman and Schwerner at point blank range.
He also shot Chaney in the head after another accomplice, James Jordan, shot Chaney in the abdomen. Roberts said "Are you that nigger lover? Arledge, 27, and Jimmy Snowden, 31, were both Meridian commercial drivers. Arledge, a high school drop-out, and Snowden, a U. Army veteran, were present during the murders. Jerry M. Sharpe, Billy W. Posey, and Jimmy L. Townsend were all from Philadelphia. Sharpe, 21, ran a pulp wood supply house. Posey, 28, a Williamsville, Mississippi automobile mechanic, owned a red and white Chevrolet; the car was considered fast and was chosen over Sharpe's.
The youngest was Townsend, 17; he left high school in to work at Posey's Phillips 66 garage. Horace D. Barnette, 25, was Travis' younger half-brother; he had a two-toned blue Ford Fairlane sedan. Officials say that James Jordan, 38, killed Chaney. He confessed his crimes to the federal authorities in exchange for a plea deal. The workers arrived at Pilgrim's store, where they may have been inclined to stop and use the telephone, but the presence of a Mississippi Highway Safety patrol car, manned by Officer Wiggs and Poe, most likely dissuaded them. They continued south toward Meridian.
The lynch mob members, who were in Barnette's and Posey's cars, were drinking while arguing who would kill the three young men. Barnette's car and told the group: "They're going on 19 toward Meridian. Follow them! Posey's Chevrolet carried Roberts, Sharpe, and Townsend. The Chevy apparently had carburetor problems and was forced to the side of the highway. Sharpe and Townsend were ordered to stay with Posey's car and service it. Soon he stopped them and escorted the three civil right workers north on Highway 19, back in the direction of Philadelphia.
They were shot by Jordan and Roberts. Chaney was also beaten before his death. After the three men were shot, they were quickly loaded into their Ford station wagon and transported to Burrage's Old Jolly Farm, located along Highway 21 , a few miles southwest of Philadelphia where an earthen dam for a farm pond was under construction. Herman Tucker, a heavy machinery operator, was at the dam waiting for the lynch mob's arrival. Earlier in the day, Burrage, Posey, and Tucker had met at Posey's gasoline station or Burrage's garage to discuss these burial details, and Tucker most likely was the one who covered up the bodies using a bulldozer that he owned.
An autopsy of Andrew Goodman, showing fragments of red clay in his lungs and grasped in his fists, suggests he was probably buried alive alongside the already dead Chaney and Schwerner.
The Murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman & Michael Schwerner - Civil Rights Case
Well, boys, you've done a good job. You've struck a blow for the white man. Mississippi can be proud of you. You've let those agitating outsiders know where this state stands. Go home now and forget it. But before you go, I'm looking each one of you in the eye and telling you this: The first man who talks is dead! If anybody who knows anything about this ever opens his mouth to any outsider about it, then the rest of us are going to kill him just as dead as we killed those three sonofbitches [ sic ] tonight.
Does everybody understand what I'm saying. The man who talks is dead, dead, dead! For reasons unknown, the station wagon was left near a river in northeast Neshoba County along Highway It was soon set ablaze and abandoned. Unconvinced by the assurances of the Memphis-based agents, Sullivan elected to wait in Memphis Sullivan's instinctive decision to stick around Memphis proved correct.
Early Monday morning, June 22, he was informed of the disappearance The town would be his home for the next nine months. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover initially ordered the FBI Office in Meridian, run by John Proctor , to begin a preliminary search after the three men were reported missing. That evening, U.
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy escalated the search and ordered federal agents to be sent from New Orleans. Joseph Sullivan of the FBI immediately went to the scene. Edgar Hoover was antipathetic to civil rights groups in general; he had long been worried that they were under communist influence.
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During the investigation, searchers including Navy divers and FBI agents discovered the bodies of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore in the area the first was found by a fisherman. They were college students who had disappeared in May Federal searchers also discovered year-old Herbert Oarsby, and five other unidentified Mississippi blacks, whose disappearances in the recent past had not attracted attention outside their local communities. The disappearance of the three activists captured national attention. By the end of the first week, all major news networks were covering their disappearances.
Johnson met with the parents of Goodman and Schwerner in the Oval Office. Walter Cronkite 's CBS newscast broadcast on June 25, , called the disappearances "the focus of the whole country's concern". Mississippi officials resented the outside attention.
The Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey said, "They're just hiding and trying to cause a lot of bad publicity for this part of the state. Johnson Jr. X" passed along a tip to federal authorities. Schwerner and Goodman had each been shot once in the heart; Chaney, a black man, had been severely beaten, castrated and shot three times.
The identity of "Mr. X" was revealed publicly 40 years after the original events, and revealed to be Maynard King, a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer close to the head of the FBI investigation. King died in Lyndon B. Johnson and civil rights activists used the outrage over the activists' deaths to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of , which he signed on July 2. This and the Selma to Montgomery marches of contributed to passage of the Voting Rights Act of , which Johnson signed on August 6 of that year. Malcolm X used the delayed resolution of the case in his argument that the federal government was not protecting black lives, and African-Americans would have to defend themselves: "And the FBI head, Hoover, admits that they know who did it, they've known ever since it happened, and they've done nothing about it.
Civil rights bill down the drain. By late November the FBI accused 21 Mississippi men of engineering a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Most of the suspects were apprehended by the FBI on December 4, Akin, E.
Akin, Arledge, T. Two individuals who were not interviewed and photographed, H. Barnette and James Jordan, would later confess their roles during the murder. Because Mississippi officials refused to prosecute the killers for murder, a state crime, the federal government, led by prosecutor John Doar , charged 18 individuals under 18 U. Commissioner dismissed the charges six days later, declaring that the confession on which the arrests were based was hearsay.
One month later, government attorneys secured indictments against the conspirators from a federal grand jury in Jackson.
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On February 24, , however, Federal Judge William Harold Cox , an ardent segregationist, threw out the indictments against all conspirators other than Rainey and Price on the ground that the other seventeen were not acting "under color of state law. Defense attorneys then made the argument that the original indictments were flawed because the pool of jurors from which the grand jury was drawn contained insufficient numbers of minorities.
Rather than attempt to refute the charge, the government summoned a new grand jury and, on February 28, , won reindictments. Trial in the case of United States v. Cecil Price, et al. A jury of seven white men and five white women was selected.
Defense attorneys exercised peremptory challenges against all seventeen potential black jurors. A white man, who admitted under questioning by Robert Hauberg, the U. Attorney for Mississippi, that he had been a member of the KKK "a couple of years ago," was challenged for cause, but Cox denied the challenge. The trial was marked by frequent crises. Star prosecution witness James Jordan cracked under the pressure of anonymous death threats made against him and had to be hospitalized at one point.
The Freedom Summer murders
The jury deadlocked on its decision and Judge Cox employed the " Allen charge " to bring them to resolution. Seven defendants, mostly from Lauderdale County , were convicted. The convictions in the case represented the first ever convictions in Mississippi for the killing of a civil rights worker. Sentences ranged from three to ten years. After exhausting their appeals, the seven began serving their sentences in March None served more than six years. Sheriff Rainey was among those acquitted.
Two of the defendants, E. Barnett, a candidate for sheriff, and Edgar Ray Killen , a local minister, had been strongly implicated in the murders by witnesses, but the jury came to a deadlock on their charges and the Federal prosecutor decided not to retry them. For much of the next four decades, no legal action was taken on the murders. In , on the 25th anniversary of the murders, the U. Congress passed a non-binding resolution honoring the three men; Senator Trent Lott and the rest of the Mississippi delegation refused to vote for it.
The journalist Jerry Mitchell , an award-winning investigative reporter for Jackson 's The Clarion-Ledger , wrote extensively about the case for six years. In the late 20th century, Mitchell had earned fame by his investigations that helped secure convictions in several other high-profile Civil Rights Era murder cases, including the murders of Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer , and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. In the case of the civil rights workers, Mitchell was aided in developing new evidence, finding new witnesses, and pressuring the state to take action by Barry Bradford,  a high school teacher at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, and three of his students, Allison Nichols, Sarah Siegel, and Brittany Saltiel.
Bradford later achieved recognition for helping Mitchell clear the name of the civil rights martyr Clyde Kennard. Together the student-teacher team produced a documentary for the National History Day contest. It presented important new evidence and compelling reasons to reopen the case. Bradford also obtained an interview with Edgar Ray Killen , which helped convince the state to investigate.
Partially by using evidence developed by Bradford, Mitchell was able to determine the identity of "Mr. X", the mystery informer who had helped the FBI discover the bodies and end the conspiracy of the Klan in Mitchell's investigation and the high school students' work in creating Congressional pressure, national media attention and Bradford's taped conversation with Killen prompted action. More than 1, people, including civil rights leaders and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour , joined them to support having the case re-opened.
When the Mississippi Attorney General prosecuted the case, it was the first time the state had taken action against the perpetrators of the murders.
Murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner
Rita Bender, Michael Schwerner's widow, testified in the trial. His appeal, in which he claimed that no jury of his peers would have convicted him in based on the evidence presented, was rejected by the Supreme Court of Mississippi in Justice Department , announced that there would be no further investigation into the murders. Numerous works portray or refer to the stories of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, the aftermath of their murders and subsequent trial, and other related events of that summer.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. June murders of 3 civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Main article: United States v. American Experience. Retrieved November 14, CBS News.