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Federal building to be named after three civil rights heroes: Paul Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner

Unidentified Mississippi woman eulogizes Paul Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. (Photograph by Susan Klopfer. Taken during a ceremony on the courthouse steps of Neshoba County, Mississippi)

After countless Mississippi buildings, reservoirs and post offices named after the likes of Sen. James O. Eastland, Gov. Ross Barnett and politician Walter Sillers, there’s finally an effort to name a structure after three true civil rights heroes.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to designate the Federal Bureau of Investigations building, currently under construction in Jackson, Miss., the James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner Federal Building.

A Tribute to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner

“Perhaps the most notable episode of violence came in Freedom Summer of 1964, when civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner left their base in Meridian, Miss., to investigate one of a number of church burnings in the eastern part of the state. The Ku Klux Klan had burned Mount Zion Church because the minister had allowed it to be used as a meeting place for civil rights activists. After the three young men had gone into Neshoba County to investigate, they were subsequently stopped and arrested by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price. After several hours, Price finally released them only to arrest them again shortly after 10 p.m. He then turned the civil rights workers over to his fellow Klansmen. The group took the activists to a remote area, beat them, and then shot them to death. Dittmer suggests that because Schwerner and Goodman were White the federal government responded by establishing an FBI office in Jackson and calling out the state’s National Guard and U. S. Navy to help search for the three men. Of course this was the response the Freedom Summer organizers had hoped for when they asked for White volunteers.

“After several weeks of searching and recovering more than a dozen other bodies, the authorities finally found the civil rights workers buried under an earthen dam. Seven Klansmen, including Price, were arrested and tried for the brutal killings. A jury of sympathizers found them all not guilty. Some time later, the federal government charged the murderers with violating the civil rights of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney. This time the Klansmen were convicted and served sentences ranging from two to ten years.”

Source: Curtis J. Austin, State Historical Society. “The Civil Rights Movement in Miss.” Curtis J. Austin, Ph.D., is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi.
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You can use the new Search Box I’ve added to this blog to find posts on these three men who gave their lives to civil rights at the start of Freedom Summer of 1964.

The Sovereignty Commission, of course, followed every move of the investigation … Here are several links to get you started:

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd01/005432.png&otherstuff=1|72|2|72|1|1|1|5285|

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd01/005438.png&otherstuff=1|72|2|74|2|1|1|5291|

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd02/011236.png&otherstuff=2|46|0|98|1|1|1|11003|

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd01/000436.png&otherstuff=1|8|0|18|1|1|1|426|

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd08/056155.png&otherstuff=2|166|2|75|1|1|1|55380|

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/result.php?image=/data/sov_commission/images/png/cd07/049266.png&otherstuff=2|158|1|8|7|1|1|48557|

There are hundreds of Sovereignty Commission files to go through. Be sure to check the multiple names, spellings (i.e. Mickey Schwerner, M. Schwerner, Michael Schwerner). Check for mispelled versions, too. Note the file on Rita Schwerner. Here’s the link to MDAH files

http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/