A Seldom Published Fact of Civil Rights

I was reading an article titled “Convict in 1964 civil-rights deaths won't confess” written by Jack Elliott Jr. for the Associated Press.  In the article it talked about a man who was imprisoned for his role in the death of a staple in the movie “Mississippi Burning”.  The article seemed to be fixed on this guy confessing which really makes no sense if he has not done so by now.  He, apparently, has found his peace with what actions or inaction he took back in those days and is not afraid of the upcoming meeting he will have with his maker.  No, I was not too interested in the subject of the article but I was intrigued by something that was mentioned within it.  Now to appease that itch that some of you may be feeling, let me give you a little bit of that article mentioned above.  It states “Craggy-faced and ornery, Edgar Ray Killen bears the signs of his 89 years. His hands are still scarred and rough from decades in the east Mississippi sawmills. He has a muscular build even as he maneuvers in his wheelchair. Time has not softened his views and he remains an ardent segregationist.  And he steadfastly refuses to discuss the "Freedom Summer" slayings of three civil-rights workers, which sparked national outrage, helped spur passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and landed him behind bars.  Killen was interviewed by The Associated Press inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary, where he is serving a 60-year sentence; it was his first interview since his conviction on state charges of manslaughter in 2005, 41 years to the day after James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed and buried in a red clay dam. An earlier trial in 1967, on federal charges, resulted in a mistrial.  Killen wouldn't say much about the 1964 killings. He said he remains a segregationist who does not believe in race equality but contends he bears no ill will toward blacks”.

The part that intrigued me was finding that the names of those murdered were not household names.  James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner should be as well-known as Emmett Till and Martin Luther King.  Think about the courage it took or depending on whom you talk to the stupidity to go down there and attempt to register black people to vote.  You see the Ku Klux Klan really wasn’t afraid of the blacks then, they had them pretty well under control, they felt afraid of the vote.  The names James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner should be raised each and every time we hear of any elected body gerrymandering  lines or passing any laws which are designed to limited the right to vote for any American, naturalized or not.  There should be monuments and statues erected of those three, right near monuments of our military who fought to make that and all rights available to everyone.  There should be movies made about them and days set aside so that those who try to repeat the sins of our past are blatantly reminded of those attempts and the cost so long ago.

Why has this not happened is simple to assume, you are talking about a black man, a white man and a Jew.  Sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke instead of the beginning of a country trying so desperately to turn a page.  Many ask where are the heroes and I now must answer.  Three of them were found dead buried in a red-clay dam.


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