LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover on Mississippi Civil Rights Workers' Murders (1964)


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Three American civil rights' workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael "Mickey" Schwerner, were lynched on the night of June 21--22, 1964 by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County's Sheriff Office and the Philadelphia Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three had been working on the "Freedom Summer" campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote.

Their murders sparked national outrage and a massive federal investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation referred to this investigation as Mississippi Burning (MIBURN), and eventually found the bodies 44 days later in an earthen dam near the murder site. After the state government refused to prosecute, the federal government initially charged 18 individuals but was only able to secure convictions for seven of them, who received relatively minor sentences for their actions. However, outrage over their deaths assisted in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Several films dramatized the events of that summer. In 1974, a CBS made-for-television movie aired, Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan, co-starring Wayne Rogers and Ned Beatty. This was followed in 1988 by Mississippi Burning, with Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman; and in 1990 by Murder in Mississippi, starring Tom Hulce, Blair Underwood and Josh Charles. The sympathetic portrayal of FBI agents in the first two movies angered civil rights activists, who believed the Bureau received too much credit for solving the case and too little condemnation for their previous lack of action in regards to civil rights abuses.

A 2008 documentary entitled Neshoba details the murders, the investigation, and the 2005 trial of Edgar Ray Killen. The documentary features statements by many surviving relatives of the victims, other residents of Neshoba county, and other people connected to the civil rights movement. The film also contains footage from the 2005 trial.

Pete Seeger and Frances Taylor wrote the song "Those Three Are on My Mind" about the murders.
Tom Paxton included the tribute song, "Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney", on his 1965 album, Ain't That News.
Phil Ochs wrote his song, "Here's to the State of Mississippi", about these events and other violations of civil rights that took place in that state.
Simon & Garfunkel's song, "He Was My Brother", was dedicated to Andrew Goodman, who was their friend and a classmate of Simon's at Queens College.
In the novel Song of Susannah by Stephen King, Susannah Dean reminisces about her time in Mississippi as a civil rights activist. She thinks about making love to James Chaney and singing the song "Man of Constant Sorrow".
The murders were depicted by Norman Rockwell in an illustration titled Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi) published in Look in June 1965 as part of a series on civil rights.
In the first episode of Season 4 of Mad Men, Don Draper dates a girl who mentions knowing Andrew Goodman, which is the first indication of what year Season 4 takes place.
Richard Farina's song, "Michael, Andrew and James", performed with Mimi Farina, was included in their first Vanguard album, Celebrations for a Grey Day, released in 1965.
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