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50th anniversary of murders of 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi for Freedom Summer - Peter Lemkin - 26-06-2014

Mississippi Burning at 50: Relatives of Civil Rights Workers Look Back at Murders that Shaped an Era

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the murders of three young civil rights workers who traveled to Mississippi for Freedom Summer, the historic campaign to register African-American voters. On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Michael Schwerner went missing after they visited a church in Neshoba County, Mississippi, which the Ku Klux Klan had bombed because it was going to be used as a Freedom School. Forty-four days after the trio's disappearance, FBI agents found their bodies buried in an earthen dam. During the six-week search, the bodies of nine black men were also dredged out of local swamps. The murders in Mississippi outraged the nation and propelled the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. We are joined by family members of two of the victims: Rev. Julia Chaney-Moss, who was 17 years old when her brother was killed; Angela Lewis, Chaney's daughter, born just 10 days before his death; and David Goodman, president of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, named after his brother.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We spend the rest of the hour on voting rights. June 21st marked the 50th anniversary of the murders of three young civil rights workers who traveled to Mississippi for Freedom Summer in 1964. The historic campaign to register African-American voters is chronicled in a new documentary called Freedom Summer that aired on PBS's American Experience this week. This is the trailer.
JUDGE TOM P. BRADY: I don't want the nigger, as I have known him and contacted him during my lifetime, to control the making of a law that controls me, to control the government under which I live.
UNIDENTIFIED: I don't think people understand how violent Mississippi was. If black people try and vote, they can get hurt or killed.
FREEDOM SUMMER VOLUNTEER: You're not a registered voter, you're not a first-class citizen, man.
UNIDENTIFIED: They would say, "You're right, boy. We should be registered to vote. But I ain't going down there and messing with them white people."
BOB MOSES: We hope to send into Mississippi this summer upwards of 1,000 students from all around the country who will engage in Freedom Schools, voter registration activity, and open up Mississippi to the country.
GOV. ROSS BARNETT: We face absolute extinction of all we hold dear. We must be strong enough to crush the enemy.
REPORTER: The three civil rights workers who disappeared in Mississippi last Sunday night still have not been heard from.
UNIDENTIFIED: It was always in the back of everybody's minds that bad things were going to happen. But if you cared about this country and cared about democracy, then you had to go down there.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the first day of Freedom Summer in 1964 began with the disappearances of the young civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. It was on June 21st, 1964, that the men went missing after they visited a church in Neshoba County, Mississippi, which the Ku Klux Klan had bombed because it was going to be used as a Freedom School. This clip from the documentary Neshoba: The Price of Freedom picks up the story. We hear from retired FBI agent Jim Ingram and reporter Jerry Mitchell. It begins with former U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Doar.
JOHN DOAR: Three civil rights workers were missing, and they had last been seen going up to investigate a church burning in Neshoba County.
NEWS ANCHOR: It's 35 miles from Meridian to Philadelphia, then 12 miles to Longdale, where the church had been burned. That afternoon, the three were seen at the church site and at the home of its lay leader. About 2:30, they headed west toward Philadelphia.
JIM INGRAM: Chaney was outside changing the tire. They had a flat. And there was Price. And when they pulled up, he said, "I'm arresting Chaney for speeding; Schwerner and Goodman, for investigation."
JOHN DOAR: Cecil Price, the deputy sheriff, saw them and stopped them, and he takes them into the jail. So, somehow, someway, the message gets out to the Klan, and then they have to organize.
JERRY MITCHELL: Edgar Ray Killen began to kind of coordinate things that night, kind of gathered a group of guys, had one of them go get gloves so they wouldn't have fingerprints, told them the guys they wanted were there in the jail.
NEWS ANCHOR: By 10:00, Price says he had located a justice of the peace who fined the trio $20. Price tells what happened then.
DEPUTY CECIL PRICE: They paid the fine, and I released them. That's the last time we saw any of them.
JOHN DOAR: The boys were driving back from the county jail, and they started down the road toward Meridian, and they were stopped by a police car. And there would be this group of Klan people.
JERRY MITCHELL: They arrested them and put them in Price's car.
JOHN DOAR: And then turned right into a gravel, rural road.
JERRY MITCHELL: And Alton Wayne Roberts grabbed Schwerner, and he said to him, "Are you that 'n-word' lover?" And Schwerner said, "Sir, I understand how you feel." And, bam, shot him, grabbed Goodman. Goodman didn't even get a word out. Shot Goodman. Chaney, by this point, obviously realizing what's going down, took off. We know he was shot by several people. They also apparently beat him.
AMY GOODMAN: That's a clip from the documentary Neshoba: The Price of Freedom.
Even after the attack on Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, more than 700 students came to the state to register voters. Forty-four days after the trio disappeared, FBI agents found their bodies buried in an earthen dam. During the six-week search, the bodies of nine black men were also dredged out of local swamps. The murders in Mississippi outraged the nation, propelled the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
For more, we're joined by family members of two of the victims. In Jackson, Mississippi, we're joined by Reverend Julia Chaney-Moss. She was 17 years old in 1964 when her brother James Chaney was murdered. Also in Jackson, Angela Lewis, the daughter of James Chaney. She was born just 10 days after he was killed by the Klan. And here in New York, David Goodman, the brother of Andrew Goodman, murdered along with Chaney and Mickey Schwerner in Mississippi in 1964. He, too, was 17 years old when his older brother Andrew was killed. He's president of the Andrew Goodman Foundation. And his mother, Carolyn Goodman, recently published a bookit was published posthumouslycalled My Mantelpiece: A Memoir of Survival and Social Justice.
We welcome all of you to Democracy Now! You have all been spending time in Mississippi nowAngela, you live thererelating what's happening today around voting rights to what's happening 50 years ago. But first, Davidand then I want to ask each of youwhen did you hear what had happened to your brother?
DAVID GOODMAN: Well, he was missing on June 21st, but we didn't know he was dead for 44 days. And the FBI found their bodies in the afternoon of August 4th, 1964. I was at home by myself. My parents had gone out that evening to a concert. It was the first time they actually went out. And I believe Lee White, who was assistant to President Johnson, actually called our house to tell us that they found the bodies.
AMY GOODMAN: I think it was Bill Moyers who actually got the call, right, from Mississippi saying they had found them, when he was in the White House. Julia Chaney-Moss, can you tell us where you were on that day when you learned?
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: I was home with mywith my mother, my sister and my brother Ben.
AMY GOODMAN: And the White House called?
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: No. We did not get a presidential call.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, how did you learn of what had happened?
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: Well, I'll preface it a bit with, before they left, before Mickey, Jay and Andy left, Jay had said to us to tell my mother that if they weren't back at a certain hour, and given here a telephone tree, list of phone numbers that they should startthat we should start calling. So when they weren't back, we began to make the call. It was not until the next day thatwell, that we were officially informed that they were missing, because they weren't able to be tracked anywhere.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, David Goodman, for those viewers and listeners who are younger, who don'tweren't alive back in 1964, could you talk about how big of a story this was nationwide, the impact it had on the country? I mean, some historians have said 1964 was a year that changed America.
DAVID GOODMAN: Yeah, well, I was 17 years old. I had just graduated from high school. I mean, my grandfather used to say, "If you have a question, ask a 17-year-old. They know everything." Well, I mean, turns out I didn't know very much at all. But I learned a lot quickly in a way that I wouldn't wish on anybody. And the story was huge. It was a huge story. I've been told that for the 44 days they were missing, it was the most watched and listened to and read about story internationally, even, because, as I subsequently read, the rest of the world viewed the United States, understandably, as the leading world democracy and could not believe that in many of our states we had policemen murdering civilians, and with a history of getting away with it, in certain instances, white policemen and white people murdering black people in certain states. And it was a shock. And this event was kind of a level ofa secondary level of shock to me and to the nation, to realize that white people could also be murdered because of black people, which had almost never happened before. So, it was an international story, it was a national story. And a really sad part of the story, in my opinion, the way I feel, is that it took two white kids to wake up white America to what was going on in our country.
AMY GOODMAN: I just visited your house where you grew up, where, after you learned of the murder of your brother and James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King came to pay condolences to your family.
DAVID GOODMAN: Yeah, we were really honored. It was after they found the bodies, so Dr. King and Coretta King came to express their deep regrets. And it was quite an event for me, personally.
AMY GOODMAN: Angela Lewis, you were not born yet. How did you learn the story of your father? You were born 10 days after James Chaneyafter 10 dayswhen were you born, Angela?
ANGELA LEWIS: I was born June the 11th of '64, and I was actually just 11 days old10 days old.
AMY GOODMAN: So how did you come to understand, as you grew up, what happened to your dad?
ANGELA LEWIS: Mainly through reading for myself and through talking to my grandmother, my father's mother. And, you know, had a couple of aunts that would tell me bits and pieces, but I was not privileged to a lot of information about my father.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So your mother, for many years, did not tell you what had happened?
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about, in learning for yourself and talking to your grandmother, how that shaped you and your work now around voting rights and around racial equality. You live in Meridian, Mississippi.
ANGELA LEWIS: Well, it gives me a great appreciation for not only the sacrifice that my father made, but others, as well. And it gives me the same motivation and desire to want to help, you know, young people and to just try to make people's lives better. So, mostly, it's just an appreciation. And I think I share the same passion that my father did, when it comes to just wanting to help people to live a better life.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Julia Chaney-Moss, I wanted to ask you, the long period of time before anybody was found guilty of these murders, could you talk about that and the impact that finally there was a conviction in the case?
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: Well, it was. It was a terrifically long period of time. And life goes on. You continue to live, even when there is an absence in your life, a present absence in your life. You continue to live. And once there waswe hadin fact, we had no idea until we were called and asked and given information about the pending pursuit of indictment of Preacher Killen. Prior to that, there seemed to have been nothing, you know, really occurring. Once that happened, again, because there was no precedence, nothing had happened before of this nature, seriously, and it was difficult, a little difficult, to rejoice or be happy about this, but to hear this, with temerity, and to just beto be OK and kind of in waiting to see how this would unfold and what would occur.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we're also going to be joined by Jerry Mitchell, who was one of those who helped to lead to the indictment and conviction of Preacher Killen, but I wanted to go back to the day of the funeral in Mississippi. I'm sure, Reverendwere you at this funeral? Were you at the funeral, along with your brother Ben?
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: Unfortunately, unfortunately, I was not at the funeral. I was sick. I was home. But, yes, everyone left to the funeral, and there is no emptiness that can compare to the emptiness I felt, and being in the house and just wandering, knowing what was occurring
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I wanted
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Dave Dennis, who led the Congress of Racial Equality operations in Mississippi, speaking at your brother's funeral, at James Chaney's funeral. This is from the documentary Freedom Summer.
DAVE DENNIS: I want to talk about is really what I really grieve about. I don't grieve for Chaney, because the fact I feel that he lived a fuller life than many of us will ever live. I feel that he's got his freedom, and we're still fighting for it.
BRUCE WATSON: Dave Dennis's speech was a turning point in the summer, because everybody wanted him to say the usual things that you would say at a funeral, and Dave Dennis just couldn't do it. He challenged the people at the memorial, and he challenged the whole movement.
DAVE DENNIS: You see, we're all tired. You see, I know what's going to happen. I feel it deep in my heart. When they find the people who killed those guys in Neshoba County...
All of the deep emotions, things I'd been going through leading up to this particular moment, began to come out, boil up in me, you might call this. And then looking out there and seeing Ben Chaney, James Chaney's little brother, I lost it. I totally just lost it.
Don't bow down anymore! Hold your heads up! We want our freedom now. I don't want to have to go to another memorial. Tired of funerals. Tired of it! Got to stand up!
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was David Dennis of the Congress of Racial Equality at the funeral of James Chaney. Angela Lewis, I'd like to ask you, how has Mississippi changed in all of these years? And obviously we just heard the news in the last few days of many African Americans voting for Thad Cochran, the Republican, against a tea party in his own Republican primary. Could you talk a little bit about how the state has changed?
ANGELA LEWIS: I do feel that the state has changed a lot; of course, we're not where we were in the '60s. But there's still a lot of work to be done, because now we have a generation of young people that are apathetic, because we don't have the same challenges that we had then, so the challenge now becomes to keep our young people educated and interested in moving forward and just being aware of what's going on in society and being a part of that.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about how these 50th anniversary activities that have been going on all throughout MississippiDavid, you've just come up from Mississippi. Julia Chaney-Moss, you live in New Jersey, and you're helping to care for your brother Ben, who was at the funeral, but he's ill now. You've gone down to Mississippi. Rita Schwerner, the wife, the widow of Mickey Schwerner, has been in Mississippi. And there's a whole conference going on in Mississippi around Freedom Summer. How is this galvanizing, this summer, around voting rights?
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: Certainly, seeing just the volume and group of young people and their energy, commitment and enthusiasm is really heartening, and it's really very hopeful. The challenges that lay ahead of these young people and the fact that they are so eagerly willing to inform themselves, to empower themselves and step up to the plate really portends for a future that is much brighter than the existence of Mississippi today.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did your brother risk his life, Julia Chaney-Moss? He knew the incredible danger, even more so than the white activists, of course, because he was African-American.
REV. JULIA CHANEY-MOSS: My brother was at a crossroads. At 17, we're at a crossroads in our lives. We're looking at our future. We're looking at our options and the directions that we're choosing. He made a choice. He made a very conscious choice, becoming involved with the student group and the NAACP. He wore a paper NAACP button to school, and he was expelled by the principal. And he did not stop. At the juncture that he had decided to become further involved, he had had a conversation with my mother. And his burning question, I think the driving force of his life, was: Why do we have to live this way? So that in asking that question and having those conversations with my mother, he began to share with her the choices he had made and the work that he was about to begin. And my mother, in her formidable wisdom, also shared with him. I heard her say, "Boy, do you know what you're about to do?" And he said, "Yes, ma'am, I know what I'm about to do." And she said, "You know you're putting your life on the line, and you can get killed for this?" He says, "Yes, ma'am, I know that I can." My mother did not forbid him. She did not, in any way, try to impede him. She was not delighted by his choice, but she certainly supported his choice.

50th anniversary of murders of 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi for Freedom Summer - Tracy Riddle - 27-06-2014

This is the main reason I keep making myself vote (for third party candidates, as a protest) when I know the system is mostly rigged in favor of the Establishment. Because people like these brave kids died for it.

Most people have seen the film Mississippi Burning, but there's a 1975 film with Wayne Rogers called Attack on Terror: The FBI vs the Ku Klux Klan that's pretty good too.

50th anniversary of murders of 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi for Freedom Summer - Peter Lemkin - 27-06-2014

The real 'take-away' IMHO of the 50th anniversary to a very horrible event in my life and that of our Nation is 1] that it took over 40 years to even get a manslaughter conviction of someone who was NOT present at the murder - when many persons [even in 'law enforcement'] knew exactly who was involved and covered up for them - and do to this very day! 2] over half of the states have since 2000 introduced new legislation to LIMIT voting participation, mostly based on race and class! The battle is far from over - even if a 'vote' means little now, the right of everyone to vote is the very basis of a democracy. They also control who can run and which party is allowed [we now have only one, with two minor variants]. Very sad then. Very sad now. Forward into the past is sadly where America is heading now full speed ahead. Cover-ups of assassinations of progressive speakers, thinkers, and actors in the USA are legion. American 'exceptionalism' in my mind is that the Nation is, as it has been, exceptionally bad - and that the greatest 'rot' has been top-down all along. A little progress was made, but new evils have always countered that progress. Those who really run America are anti-democratic, racist, sexist, classist, war and hate-mongering, anti-environment, anti-equality, anti-life, anti-justice, anti-truth, and just plain evil. The People who in theory are sovereign [but in reality are nothing but indentured servants] would need to take back the Country and their power over it - from those hidden manipulators - always there; but making new strides since 9-11-01 and since they assassinated JFK, MLK, et al. [with thousands of other operations in between, before, and since.]

50th anniversary of murders of 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi for Freedom Summer - Peter Lemkin - 27-06-2014

50 Years After Freedom Summer, U.S. Faces Greatest Curbs on Voting Rights Since Reconstruction

In a week marking the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, Mississippi was in the news when African-American voters crossed party lines to help Republican Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeat a tea party challenger to win his party's nomination. It was just a year ago that Cochran praised a Supreme Court decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. We are joined by three guests: Jerry Mitchell, investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, whose work helped put four Klansmen behind bars, including the man who orchestrated the Klan's 1964 killings of three civil rights activists; Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation, author of a forthcoming book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act; and David Goodman, brother of slain civil rights activist Andrew Goodman.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We stay now in Mississippi, a state that was in the news this week when African-American voters crossed party lines to help Republican Senator Thad Cochran narrowly defeat a tea party challenger to win his party's nomination. It was just a year ago that Cochran praised a Supreme Court decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. An editorial in today's New York Times calls on him to now become the first Republican to cross party lines to support a new measure that would restore the act's protections.
AMY GOODMAN: We're staying in Jackson, Mississippi, where we're joined by Jerry Mitchell, investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger. His work has helped put four Klansmen behind bars, including the man who orchestrated the Klan's '64 killings of the three civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, during Freedom Summer, as well as the assassin of NAACP leader Medgar Evers in 1963. He's writing a book on cold cases from the civil rights era called Race Against Time.
We're also joined by Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation. His latest article, "Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, the Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever," and "Where Are the GOP Supporters of Voting Rights?" also working on a book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Jerry Mitchell, as we talk about voting rights, can you just talk very briefly about this unusual race that took place, with Thad Cochran, the longtime incumbent senator, narrowly defeating a tea party challenger
AMY GOODMAN: by appealing to black Democrats to come out and vote for him?
AMY GOODMAN: In some states, it's a closed primary, so Democrats can't run forvote for Republicans, and vice versa. But how does it work in Mississippi?
JERRY MITCHELL: Well, it's the opposite of that: It's an open primary. And so, if you votefor example, in this case, you had a runoff. Let's say you voted in the Democratic primary as a Democrat. You could turn right around and vote for thein the Republican runoff. There is no restriction on that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jerry Mitchell, on this anniversary of the killings of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, you were instrumental in finally getting, through your coverage, one of the Klansmen, Edgar Ray Killen, finally convicted, although it took more than 40 years. Could you talk a little bit about how you were able to uncover or finally get this story out?
JERRY MITCHELL: Well, what it was, there was an interview thatSam Bowers, who was the head of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, had done an interview. There had been a prosecution, federal prosecution, in 1967 for violating civil rights. Eighteen men were tried then. Seven were convicted, including Bowers, and the rest of the 18 walked. Bowers said, in this secret interview I was able to get a copy of, that he was quite delighted to be convicted and have the main instigator of the entire affair walk out of the courtroom a free man, and he was referring to Edgar Ray Killen. And so, that was what got the case reopened in 1999 and eventually led to reprosecution in 2005.
AMY GOODMAN: David Goodman, were you at the trial? What did it mean to you to have Preacher Killen actually put behind bars?
DAVID GOODMAN: Yes, I was at the trial. And you know what? It's a good question. It's mixed with emotion, and it's a complicated question. I can give you the simple, quick answer that, you know, he was involved in a murder, ostensibly, it was determinedactually, he wasn't convicted for murder; he was convicted for manslaughter, which is a lower count. But, to meand if somebody commits a crime, they should be convicted and pay the price for that. But no one else was convicted. The people who were physicallyhe was not physically at the scene of the crime. The men who were physically there were never convicted of anything. They weren't even tried. And you can't be convicted if you're not tried. They weren't even indicted, which is kind of step one.
And, to me, the question is: How do you indict society? These men who killed my brother did commit a crime, but it was condoned by millions and millions and millions of people. In that movie clip you showed from Neshoba, there's a piece where one of the relatives of one of the murderers, who was known to be thereand, by the way, that was established in a federal courtwho killed my brother and James and Mickeytheir Social Security number, the FBI knew. It never got to a state court, which is the only place murder can be tried. He said, "If you come into somebody's community and you stick your nose into their business, don't be surprised if it gets cut off." And then he paused a moment and said, "You know, they deserved it." Forty years later, he's condoning murder to protect their way of life. And the whole society protected a way of life that resulted in murders, not just of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, but of hundreds of people. And it was a police state, condoned.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask Ari Berman, a little time we have left, yourthe status of voting rights in America today, and given this anniversary and thisthese murders helped propel the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965?
ARI BERMAN: Well, right now we're seeing the greatest restriction of voting rights since Reconstruction. And so, voting rights is an issue just like it was in 1964, 1965. It is still very relevant today. Since the 2010 election, 22 states have passed new voting restrictions, things like strict voter ID or cuts to early voting, restriction of same-day registration, things like that. And so, there's a great need now for the Voting Rights Act. Ironically, at the same time we're seeing this great push to restrict voting rights, the Supreme Court has taken a totally different view that the Voting Rights Act is not needed in a way that it was needed in 1965. So, there's something of an irony. Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent in that Shelby County decision you mentioned earlier, said that Section 5, which meant that states like Mississippi had to clear their voting changes with the federal government, it was like an umbrella, and you don't take away the umbrella when it's not raining. And the irony is that it was pouring. There was so much voting discrimination at the time that the Supreme Court took away that decision. And so, now voting rights advocates are trying to protect voting rights without that crucial protection from the Supreme Court.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Jerry Mitchell, do you feel Mississippi is different today? I mean, you've been investigating these crimes for years, but you're also attending these voting rights and Freedom Summer gatherings that are taking place in Mississippi.
JERRY MITCHELL: Right. Well, Mississippi has changed a lot. Back in50 years ago, there were 6 percent of African Americans were even allowed to vote in Mississippi. Today, Mississippi has more African-American elected officials than any other state. So, Mississippi has come a long ways, but we have to also be honest and say it still has a long ways to go.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, and, David, as you come up from Mississippi back to New York and New Jersey where you live, do you feel progress has been made after the deaths of your brother and so many others?
DAVID GOODMAN: Well, I think Mississippi reflects the rest of the country. There was a lot ofthere has been a lot of progress made all around the country. The issues now are more subtle, a different mode of restriction. And I look at the intent when people do something. The people who murdered my brother committed the worst crime, but they also assassinated the Constitution. That's how I felt about it. And when youwhether you're a Democrat or Republicanand both parties have done ityou're assassinating the Constitution.