August 4th, 1964

Bodies of Murdered Civil Rights Workers Found in Mississippi

In 1964, Michael Schwerner, a white New Yorker working with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), traveled to Mississippi to organize black citizens to vote. Schwerner worked extensively with James Chaney, a black CORE member from Meridian, Mississippi. The activist pair led an effort to register black voters and helped Mt. Zion Methodist Church, a black church in Longdale, Mississippi, create an organizing center. These developments angered local members of the Ku Klux Klan, and on June 16, 1964, while Schwerner and Chaney were absent, Klansmen torched the church and assaulted its members.

On June 21, 1964, Schwerner and Chaney were joined by a new white CORE member named Andrew Goodman. The trio investigated the church burning and then headed for Meridian, Mississippi. Aware that they were in constant danger of attack, Schwerner told colleagues in Meridian to search for them if they did not arrive by 4:00 p.m. While passing through the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the three men were stopped by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price.

A member of the Ku Klux Klan, Price had been monitoring the activities of the civil rights workers and he arrested and jailed them that day. After about seven hours of detention, the three men were released on bail and Price escorted them out of town. Price returned to Philadelphia to drop off another officer and then raced to intercept the men. He again arrested them but was soon joined by fellow Klansmen who planned to murder the three civil rights workers. Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were shot dead and buried a few miles from Mt. Zion Methodist Church. More than a month later, after national news coverage and an intensive search by federal authorities, their remains were discovered on August 4, 1964.