justice delayed

Two days ago, Edgar Ray Killen was indicted for his role in the murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. These were the three civil rights workers who were abducted and murdered in 1962 near Philadelphia, Mississippi, while registering black people to vote.

The State of Mississippi never brought murder charges against any of the men. They were charged with federal civil rights violations; several Mississippi sheriffs and deputies obstructed the investigation.

Nineteen men, including Killen, were indicted. In 1967, seven of them were convicted of federal civil rights violations and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years. Killen was freed after his trial on federal conspiracy charges ended in a hung jury. None of the men convicted served more than six years.


Andrew Goodman's mother, Dr Carolyn Goodman, lives in New York City, and the local media visits her regularly. Now 89 years old, having outlived two husbands and her only child, she honors her son's memory by continuing his work. She says, "I'm not looking for revenge. I'm looking for justice."

James Chaney's mother, Fannie Lee Chaney, now 82, left Mississippi shortly after her son's death, when shots were fired at her home. Like Dr Goodman, Mrs Chaney has established a foundation in her son's memory, and is involved in civil rights work.

The Schwerner family does not usually discuss the case, but Stephen Schwerner, Michael's brother, explains why these three murders are so famous: "If three black men had been killed, it might not have made the inside pages, let alone the front page." He urges people to "realize that this was not ancient history, people still alive were involved in this, and that we still have a long, long way to go."


allan said...

Ah, yes, Philadelphia, Mississippi, where presidential candidate Ronald Reagan kicked off his campaign in 1980. ... Odd choice of town, eh?

laura k said...

Wow. I didn't know that. That's right up there with visiting the SS graves in Germany.