This Day in Black History: Aug. 4, 1964

The bodies of three missing civil rights workers were found in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Posted: 08/04/2012 07:00 AM EDT
From Left: Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman

From left: Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. (Photo: Wikicommons)

On Aug. 4, 1964, the bodies of three missing civil rights workers were found buried in a partially constructed dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

 

The men, Michael Schwerner, 24, Andrew Goodman, 20, and James Chaney, 22, were found by FBI agents in a wooded area, six weeks after they were reported missing. All three were members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and participating in the organization’s Freedom Summer, a voter registration and desegregation campaign.

 

It was later discovered that members of the Ku Klux Klan shot and beat the men before using a bulldozer to cover their bodies with dirt.

 

On Oct. 20, 1967, seven men were convicted for the crimes, however, none of the men served jail time longer than six years. In 2005, the case was reopened and a Mississippi jury convicted previous defendant, Edgar Ray Killen, on three counts of manslaughter for directing the killings. At the age of 80, Killen was sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years in prison.

 

The killings were the subject of the 1988 film Mississippi Burning and outrage over the deaths fueled advocacy in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act.

 

 

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