On this date in 1964, the bodies of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney were dug up from an earthen dam, forty-four days after their murder by Ku Klux Klansmen on June 21st, the opening day of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Campaign. Schwerner, 24, was an experienced Jewish civil rights worker from New York who, with his wife Rita, ran the Congress of Racial Equality’s community center in Meridian, Mississippi. Goodman, 20, was a newly arrived Jewish Freedom Summer volunteer from New York. Chaney, 21, was a Meridian African-American who had been a Freedom Rider and was active in CORE. The three had been investigating a bombing of the Mount Zion Church when they were waylaid and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In the course of its investigations, the FBI and Navy divers discovered eight other hidden bodies of black men, five of whom were never identified. After the State of Mississippi refused to prosecute the murderers, the federal government charged eighteen men but gained convictions on civil rights charges for only seven of them. It would not be until 2004 that one leader of the group, Edgar Ray Killen, 80, was finally convicted for manslaughter.
“This entire experience has strengthened my belief in the basic decency of the vast majority of man and womankind.” —Carolyn Goodman, mother of Andrew Goodman. Read a 2005 interview with her here.