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November 23: A Jewish Civil Rights Martyr

Lawrence Bush
November 23, 2016
Andrew Goodman, who was murdered by racists, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, on his first day as a Mississippi Freedom Summer volunteer on June 24, 1964, was born in New York City on this date in 1943. Goodman was one of three sons raised Carolyn and Robert Goodman, progressive Jewish activists, and was a theater and anthropology student at Queens College when he volunteered for the voter registration and education campaign in Mississippi. The murder of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner by KKK members, with the complicity of local police, brought the hellish conditions for black people in Mississippi to national attention and turned the Freedom Summer campaign into a national drama. "Andy didn't go to Mississippi expecting to die," wrote his mother in her memoir, My Mantelpiece. "He simply went there to try to make it possible for people to go into a booth and vote. . . . He was a beautiful, strong, determined person -- and a great loss to his mother and father." The Andrew Goodman Foundation, established by the Goodman family, supports voting rights education among young people throughout America. To read a Jewish Currents interview with Carolyn Goodman following the long-overdue conviction in 2005 of one of her son's murderers, click here. "He was an activist all his life. At age 15, he traveled to Washington, DC for a Youth March for Integrated Schools. At 17, he and a friend journeyed to West Virginia by bus to examine firsthand the poverty of Appalachia. At 19, he took a job as a summer counselor at a camp for underprivileged children. Then, in the spring of 1964, he stood in the doorway of my bedroom one afternoon with an earnest look in his soft brown eyes and said, 'Mom, I'd like to go to Mississippi.'" --Carolyn Goodman

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.