Saturday, June 21, 2014



Philadelphia, Mississippi (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, June 21, 1964, three young civil rights workers were murdered here in Mississippi by members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The three young men were Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.

They were in the process of returning from at trip to Neshoba, Mississippi where they had been checking on the members of a black church which had been burned.

The Mount Zion Church of Neshoba was to have hosted a "teach-in" associated with Freedom Summer, the registration of black voters in Mississippi, but the KKK made sure that never happened.

Mississippi Historical Marker
Mt. Zion Methodist Church
Neshoba, Mississippi
Photo by Robfergusonjr 

Their car was stopped  by police allegedly for speeding.

After they were released seven hours later, the civil rights workers were followed, stopped, shot and buried in pre-dug graves.

It was determined later that the two white men, Schwerner and Goodman, were shot in the heart while Chaney, a black man, had been beaten and shot three times.

The remains were not found until 44 days later on August 4, 1964.  They were uncovered in an earthen dam.

The investigation of the murders by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was code-named MISSISSIPPI BURNING or MIBURN.

Jim Prince, co-chair of the Philadelphia Coalition, an interracial group, and publisher of the NESHOBA DEMOCRAT, calls the executions "the Pearl Harbor of the civil rights movement."

According to a report by Debbie Elliott of NPR, Michael Schwerner's widow, Ritta Bender, is in Mississippi this week "encouraging youth to embrace the civil rights movement."

Elliott quotes Ms. Bender as saying...

'Stand up for your rights.  I want my children and my grandchildren to have a country that is doing right by all its children.'

Ritta Bender testified at the trial of 80 year old Edgar Ray Killen who was found guilty on 3 counts of manslaughter in 2005.


"Still Learning From The Pearl Harbor Of The Civil Rights Movement," by Debbie Elliott, June 19, 2014,