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Andrew Goodman was a white civil rights activist from the United States murdered by the Ku Klux Klan at only 20 years old. The KKK murdered Goodman along with the Congress of Racial Equality activists Mickey Schwerner and James Earl Chaney.

Youth and Family

Andrew Goodman was born on November 23, 1943, in Manhattan, New York City’s Upper West Side.[1][2]

Andrew Goodman grew up in a loving, supportive household with access to the best schools.

His parents, Carolyn and Robert Goodman, raised him to be intelligent and socially aware alongside his two brothers.[3]

The Goodman family frequently hosted leading liberal thinkers like Zero Mostel, an actor blacklisted in Hollywood, Martin Popper, the Hollywood Ten’s lawyer, and Alger Hiss, later convicted of Russian espionage. Martin Popper later helped the Goodman family during the search for Andy as their official spokesman. The Goodman family lived comfortably and they spent many summer vacations in their Adirondacks lake house.[4]

Education and Early Activism

For high school, Andrew Goodman attended the prestigious Walden School, widely known for its progressive and anti-authoritarian curriculum. Goodman participated in the “Youth March for Integrated Schools” in Washington, D.C. during his sophomore year. Two years later, during his senior year, he joined a classmate on a trip to West Virginia to write a report on U.S. poverty by observing the struggling coal mining region.

Goodman graduated from Walden and immediately began studying at Queens College. He originally intended to pursue drama, which influenced his decision to attend Queens College in the first place, but found himself drawn back to politics.[5] His passion led him to join the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), where he met and learned from a variety of progressive thinkers.[6]

Democratic politician Allard Lowenstein gave a speech in April 1964 rallying activists to bring civil rights to the state of Mississippi. Goodman overheard the speech where Lowenstein addressed the rampant racism and totalitarianism seemingly ingrained in the Mississippi residents. He surmised if a significant civil rights battle could be won in such a difficult state, then it could be won across the U.S. South.[7]

The Mississippi Summer Project and Arson

Goodman learned of the Mississippi Summer Project through CORE. He applied and they accepted him for the Freedom Summer campaign, registering African-Americans to vote.[8] At the 1964 World Fair, Goodman joined Mickey Schwerner to protest the attendance of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Now the two men moved to Oxford, Ohio’s Wester College for Women, presently a subsidiary of Miami University, to refine possible strategies for CORE protestors and to prepare for their work with the Mississippi Summer Project.[9]

The men did not know at the time, but the Imperial Wizard of Mississippi’s Ku Klux Klan Sam Bowers ordered the burning of the Mount Zion Methodist Church, a local African-American church Bowers ordered Klan members to ambush the church during a meeting on June 16, 1964, not long after a previous visit to meet with Mount Zion church leaders about using the church as a place to register black voters. Bowers thought Schwerner would be at Mount Zion for the meeting, but he was still in Ohio.[10]

The Murder of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner

Goodman and Schwerner arrived on June 20, 1964, along with Schwerner’s closest aid James Chaney, an African-American civil rights activist born and raised in Meridian. The next day, June 21, the three men went to investigate the suspicious fire at the Mount Zion taking the CORE station wagon. The men also did not know that the local Ku Klux Klan members included Neshoba County Sheriff, Lawrence Rainey, and Cecil Price, his appointed deputy.

The Ku Klux Klan murdered Andrew Goodman on his very first day working for the Mississippi Summer Project.

Prior to leaving CORE offices in Meridian, Mickey Schwerner informed fellow employee Sue Brow that the three men should return by 4:00pm. He warned if they did not return by 4:30pm, she should call the police in Neshoba. The men first investigated the Mount Zion Methodist Church to see the damage done. They then visited four members of the African-American congregation and learned a mob of white men was hunting them. Chaney chose to drive the longer, but safer route to Meridian on Highway 16.

Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price spotted the CORE station wagon with a lone, black driver, Schwerner and Goodman hid in the back to mislead their pursuers. When Jim Chaney pulled over the vehicle, Price discovered the wanted activists. Price arrested Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman, and took them to Neshoba County Jail before informing the local Klan leader, Edgar Ray Killen, of his catch. The three men were held and when Sue Brow did not hear from Schwerner, she called the Neshoba police to find out what happened. The county employee who answered Brow’s call, Minnie Herring, lied to Brow about the men being in custody.

Deputy Sheriff Price and Edgar Ray Killen devised a plan to kill the men with fellow KKK members and, around 10:00pm, released the three from the holding cell. Chaney headed down Highway 19 back to Meridian with Price following them out of town. Price returned to the station to drop off another officer and then chased Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman down with two cars full of KKK members.

Chaney attempted to outrun the cars, but they followed behind in a high-speed chase. Not long after, the three men stopped the car and surrendered with no known explanation. Wayne Roberts, a 26-year-old ex-Marine, killed Schwerner, then Goodman, then Chaney, before the group buried them in a dam at Old Jolly Farm. Price went back to the police station to ensure his alibi.[11]

A Difficult Trial

The search efforts for Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner continued slowly for a time, hindered by the fact the County Deputy helped organize the murders. Attorney General Robert Kennedy eventually learned of the missing men and ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joseph Sullivan to uncover what happened. The FBI found the bodies of the three men on August 4, 1964.

James Jordan, one of the KKK members who witnessed the murder confessed what he saw and cooperated with the FBI’s investigation. They charged 19 men with the murder of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, including Price and Rainey. After Mississippi Federal Judge William Cox dismissed 17 of the 19 men, the Supreme Court overruled him.

On October 21, 1967, the court found seven men of depriving the three murdered men of their civil rights, but not Sheriff Rainey. Jordan served 4 years after confessing, and Deputy Price was only sentenced to 6 years. On June 21, 2005, after tireless advocacy from James Chaney’s brother, Ben Chaney, and Rush Schwerner-Berner, Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of manslaughter in the murder of Schwerner, Chaney, and Andy Goodman.[12]

References

Bibliography


CORE. (2014). Chaney, Goodman & Schwerner. Congress of Racial Equality.[1]

Linder, D. O. (2014). Biography of Andrew Goodman. University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law.[2]


Linder, D. O. (2016, June). The Mississippi Burning Trial (U. S. Vs. Price et al.). University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law.[3]

Simkin, J. (2016, June). Andrew Goodman. Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd.[4]

Footnotes

  1. Simkin, 2016
  2. Linder, 2014
  3. CORE, 2014
  4. Linder, 2014
  5. Linder, 2014
  6. Simkin, 2016
  7. Linder, 2014
  8. Linder, 2014
  9. CORE, 2014
  10. Linder, 2016
  11. Linder, 2016
  12. Simkin, 2016

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