African Americans struggled for racial equality in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Civil Rights Movement began in serious conflict as African Americans and concerned white people joined to protest racial equality. The non-violent movement for civil rights was only starting to become effective in the early 60’s.
As technology started to develop civil rights activists used television programs to show Americans the horrid reactions towards the protests. When the desegregation movement faced resistance the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) sent Freedom Riders to help protestors. These buses were attacked, one was firebombed and the other was boarded by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members who assaulted the activists.
The group or ‘gang’ known as the Ku Klux Klan or White Knights were established in Mississippi. These gangs would go around killing innocent African Americans because they were considered and perceived as less than human. They believed white people were the dominant race. They tortured African American’s by hanging them, burning their houses, assaulting them, lynching and burning crosses on their lawn. They would do anything to make African Americans lives miserable. The KKK did not only hate the African Americans but also the Jews, homosexuals, Catholics or anybody considered to be an outsider. Though most of this hatred was aimed at the African Americans.
This leads us to the brutal murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. Chaney was a local 21 year old African American from Mississippi and both Goodman and Schwerner were from New York. Goodman was 20 years old and a college student and Schwerner was 24 years old and was a social worker. All three boys were members of CORE and dedicated. They were working towards registering African Americans to vote during the ‘Freedom Summer’ campaign. The local Klan’s Wizard Sam Bowers, decided Michael was a bad influence and needed to be killed.
The three boys travelled to the Longdale church to investigate a recent KKK attack. After viewing the remains of the burnt church, the three young men were stopped by Sheriff Cecil Ray Price for ‘speeding’. He arrested them and held them in custody for eight hours. All three boys were denied a phone call. The boys were then released by the Deputy. By prearrangement the boys were again stopped while travelling on a lonely road by the Sheriff again but this time, accompanied by other KKK members. They were murdered in cold
blood and their bodies were hidden in an earthen dam several miles away and buried with a bulldozer. Chaney was beaten and all three were shot. The disappearance of the three boys resulted in an intensive FBI investigation involving 150 FBI agents. The code name used was ‘Mississippi Burning’. A re-enactment of this event is in the movie of the same name. ”You didn’t leave me nothing but a nigger. But at least I killed me a nigger1” was a piece of dialogue that came directly from a confession in FBI files.
Since Mississippi refused to prosecute the men involved in the murders, the Federal Government charged 18 men with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the three young men. Eight of the men were acquitted. The men who did get charged, got trailed under civil rights laws and received sentences ranging from only three to ten years. Not one served more than six years. The Judge William Cox quoted ‘They killed one nigger, one Jew and a white man. I gave them all what I thought they…