Case Recordsdata for 1964 Lynchings of Civil Rights Activists Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Made Public for the First Time

With signs with pictures of the murdered civil rights activists James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from Mississippi, protesters gather outside the US Supreme Court on February 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. Congressional leaders joined civil rights icons to rally as the court prepared to hear oral arguments in Shelby County against Holder, a legal challenge to Section 5 of the Suffrage Act.

I was in a teenager when I first saw the movie Mississippi Burning, and although I knew America’s capacity for hatred and racism at that young age, I remember thinking, “No, that can’t be true. “

But the 1988 film was actually loosely based on a real-life event in which three civil rights activists were lynched in Philadelphia, Miss., In 1964 – murders reportedly committed by the Ku Klux Klan and sanctioned by a local deputy sheriff. Now, for the first time, case files, photos and other records related to the investigation into the violent and hate crimes are made publicly available.

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Politico reports that the records of the investigation into the deaths of Freedom Summer activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson were released after being sealed for decades by the 2019 Prosecutor transferred to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

From politics:

The records include case files, Federal Bureau of Investigation memoranda, research notes, and reports from federal informants and testimony. According to a statement from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, there are also photos of the exhumation of the bodies and the subsequent autopsies as well as aerial photographs of the burial site.

The collection is kept in three catalog entries: the 2870 series contains the Attorney General’s research files, the 2902 series contains the FBI memos, and the 2903 series contains the photographs.

The three Freedom Summer workers, all in their 20s, were investigating a fire in a black church near Philadelphia, Mississippi, when they disappeared in June 1964.

An assistant sheriff in Philadelphia arrested her on a traffic penalty and then released her after alerting a mob. The then-governor of Mississippi claimed their disappearance was a hoax, and segregationist Senator Jim Eastland told President Lyndon Johnson it was a “publicity stunt” before their bodies were dug up and found in an earth dam weeks later.

The story goes on

Of 19 white men charged with the murders, only seven were convicted of violating the civil rights of the victims (but not murder?), And none of them were ever jailed for more than six years. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Attorney General’s office reopened the case, which resulted in Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen, who died in prison in 2018, being convicted of manslaughter.

Side note: If I wanted to be petty, I’d point out that this case is a perfect example of why the Critical Race Theory – an academic study that focuses in part on how race affects law and law enforcement – undergraduate and graduate students and taught the fact that the Conservative obsession with banning CRT has nothing to do with indoctrination and has everything to do with sweeping under the proverbial rug and burying American stories like this one.

The story of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner is just one of many that should be well documented and made available to everyone. That America is still that America and that real progress depends on being honest about our progress.

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