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In the mid-twentieth century, Mississippi was a battleground of the civil rights movement as, like other states of the South, it had long disfranchised African Americans and subjected them to racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. Philadelphia [Mississippi] in June 1964 was the scene of the murders of activists James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old Jewish CORE organizer and former social worker, also from New York.

Their deaths demonstrated the risks that activists took to secure the constitutional rights of African Americans, but many more blacks than whites had been killed in the struggle.

Ku Klux Klan members (including Cecil Ray Price, the deputy sheriff of Neshoba County) released the three young men from jail, took them to an isolated spot, and killed them. They buried them in an earthen dam. It was some time after they disappeared before the bodies were discovered, as a result of an FBI investigation and national media attention.[5]

The national outrage over their deaths helped procure support for Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The murders and related conspiracy gave rise to the “Mississippi Burning” trial, United States v. Price.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia,_Mississippi
FBI Mississippi Burning Poster
In addition to voter registration and the MFDP, the Summer Project also established a network 30 to 40 voluntary summer schools – called “Freedom Schools” – as an alternative to Mississippi’s totally segregated and underfunded schools for blacks. Over the course of the summer, more than 3,500 students attended Freedom Schools, which taught subjects that the public schools avoided, such as black history and constitutional rights…The core curriculum focused on basic literacy and arithmetic, black history and current status, political processes, civil rights, and the freedom movement. The content varied from place to place and day to day according to the questions and interests of the students.[15]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Summer

The KKK was in a murderous mood. It was June 1964—the start of “Freedom Summer,” a massive three-month initiative to register southern blacks to vote and a direct response to the Klan’s own campaign of fear and intimidation…
5 p.m. , Sunday, June 21: After driving into Philadelphia, Mississippi, the three civil rights workers were arrested by a Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff named Cecil Price, allegedly for speeding.
Circa 10:30 p.m., June 21: Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were released and drove off in the direction of Meridian in a blue station wagon. By preordained plan, KKK members followed. The activists were never heard from again.
Early morning, June 22: Notified of the disappearance, the Department of Justice requested our [FBI] involvement; a few hours later, Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked us to lead the case. By late morning, we’d blanketed the area with agents, who began intensive interviews.
Mississippi Burning car FBI
Late afternoon, June 23: Intelligence developed by our agents led them to the remains of the burnt-out station wagon, shown above. No bodies were found; the worst was feared. The charred station wagon led us to name the case “MIBURN,” for Mississippi Burning.
” (fbi.gov) https://web.archive.org/web/20110108055225/http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2007/february/miburn_022607
This is from the FBI site. Other places state that it was named Mississippi Burning due to church burnings.

Says Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood:
The FBI agents who came into Mississippi faced threats and harassment in addition to the oppressive heat of a Mississippi summer.  Despite a hostile environment, these law enforcement officers remained solely focused on locating the missing and solving this heinous crime.https://web.archive.org/web/20160621005818/http://www.ago.state.ms.us/releases/attorney-general-jim-hood-announces-the-conclusion-of-the-state-and-federal-mississippi-burning-case/

Click to access DOJ-Report-to-Mississippi-Attorney-General-Jim-Hood.pdf

From the USDOJ:
Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, June 20, 2016
… Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, released the following statement on Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s decision to close the investigation into the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner:
“During ‘Freedom Summer’ in 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were brutally murdered while working as part of a massive campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi.  Their gruesome deaths shook the nation.  The ensuing federal civil rights prosecution, which sought to bring their families a measure of justice, was a proud moment for the Justice Department.  In 1967, federal prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division convicted eight defendants for violating the federal criminal civil rights conspiracy statute.

“The Justice Department has investigated this case three times over 50 years and has helped convict nine individuals for their roles in this heinous crime.  In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted by a state jury of three counts of manslaughter based on new information that state and federal prosecutors discovered and pursued in 2000.  With the passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act in 2008, the department reopened our investigation into the incident again in 2010.  The department’s focus during this third investigation honed in on determining whether sufficient admissible evidence existed to support further state prosecution against any surviving person for involvement in the murders.

“Mississippi Attorney General Hood has determined that despite one of the most intensely investigated and documented underlying investigations of any racially-motivated murder during the 1960s, followed by the exhaustive efforts of more recent reinvestigations, the passage of time has simply rendered additional prosecutions impossible.  While legal and factual impediments sometimes prevent us from bringing cases we wish that we could, the Civil Rights Division remains dedicated to pursuing racially-motivated crimes wherever the facts allow.

“Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner gave their lives while struggling to advance the cause of civil rights for all.  Though the reinvestigation into their heinous deaths has formally closed, we must all honor their legacy by forging ahead and continuing the fight to ensure that the founding promise of America is true for all of its inhabitants.” 16-706 Civil Rights Division Topic:  Civil Rights
Updated June 20, 2016

Just what was that “founding promise of America” that Vanita Gupta – with apparently very recent roots in India – speaks of building upon? Shouldn’t the “Civil Rights” division come clean on the BS of the “founding promise of America” instead of perpetuating the lie? Many of the earliest white as well as black settlers were forcibly shipped by boat to colonial America and dropped upon the land of other peoples. Now a never-ending flow of legal immigrants arrives on jet planes – not refugees but people who just want to go to the USA. Many also came by jet to Canada and then come to the USA. The so-called “illegal” “Mexicans” are often indigenous peoples of Americas forced off their lands in the interest of mining and oil extraction. While they should have the right to stay on their lands, they also have historic ties to the Americas lacking to those arriving by planes. Shortly after blacks were given rights, a great dumping of overseas peoples commenced, and Latin America was stripped of traditional migration rights: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_and_Nationality_Act_of_1965 Why the change? Probably it was to give minority rights to groups other than blacks, reducing the economic gain of their new freedoms. Mind-bogglingly, apparently someone can fly in from China or India and claim “minority status”, which was meant to help African Americans: http://www.archives.gov/eeo/terminology.html https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/hiring/affirmativeact And, of course, Vanita Gupta’s not going to tell us about that…

These murders took place in 1964, only 132 years after the Choctaw were mostly cleared out of this section of Mississippi subsequent to the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek: http://www.choctaw.org/aboutMBCI/history/treaties1830.html

For the Choctaw who remained in or returned to Mississippi after 1855, the situation deteriorated. Many lost their lands and money to unscrupulous whites.[82] The state of Mississippi refused the Choctaw any participation in government.[82]… the European Americans considered them free people of color and excluded from the segregated white institutions“Choctaws … were at the mercy of the whites who could commit crimes against them without fear of the law. Even black slaves had more legal rights than did the Choctaws during this period.
— Charles Hudson- The Southeastern Indians

These Murders Took Place in Neshoba County Mississippi.

The region of Neshoba county and the surrounding counties was the heart of the Choctaw Nation from the 17th century until removal of most of the people in the 1830s. European-American settlers began to arrive in numbers in the early decades of the nineteenth century, after French, British and Spanish traders developed business relationships with the Choctaw.

Philadelphia is incorporated as a municipality; it was given its current name in 1903, two years before the railroad brought new opportunities and prosperity to the town. The history of the town and its influences- social, political and economic- can be seen in the many points of interest within and beyond the city limits. These range from the large ceremonial Indian mound and cave at Nanih Waiya, built about 1700 years ago and sacred to the Choctaw; to the still thriving Williams Brothers Store, a true old-fashioned general storefounded in 1907 and featured in National Geographic in 1939 as a source of anything from “needles to horse collars”, and still offering everything from bridles, butter and boots to flour, feed and fashion.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia,_Mississippi

Choctaw (not to be confused with the Choctaw in Bolivar County) is an unincorporated community and Indian reservation located in Neshoba County, Mississippi, United States. Choctaw is approximately 5.3 miles (8.5 km) west of Philadelphia along Mississippi Highway 16.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choctaw,_Neshoba_County,_Mississippi

During the American Revolution, most Choctaw supported the Thirteen Colonies’ bid for independence from the British Crown. They never went to war against the United States prior to Indian RemovalThey were the first Native Americans forced under the Indian Removal Act. The Choctaw were exiled because the U.S. wanted to expand territory available for settlement by European Americans,[5] to save the tribe from extinction,[6] and to acquire their natural resources.[7] … By the 1831 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, those Choctaw who chose to stay in the newly formed state of Mississippi were one of the first major non-European ethnic groups to become U.S. citizens.[8][9][10]

For the Choctaw who remained in or returned to Mississippi after 1855, the situation deteriorated. Many lost their lands and money to unscrupulous whites.[82] The state of Mississippi refused the Choctaw any participation in government.[82] Their limited understanding of the English language caused them to live in isolated groups. In addition, they were prohibited from attending any of the few institutions of higher learning, as the European Americans considered them free people of color and excluded from the segregated white institutions. The state had no public schools prior to those established during the Reconstruction era… “Choctaws … were at the mercy of the whites who could commit crimes against them without fear of the law. Even black slaves had more legal rights than did the Choctaws during this period.
— Charles Hudson- The Southeastern Indians[83]


Note both the positive role of the National Council of Churches, and what seems to be an anti-Jewish tone by the perpetrators. These murders may have been hate crimes against both blacks and Jewish people.
Mississippi Burning FBI page on National Council of churches, etc.


It has to be beyond the scope of this blog post to address what, if any, involvement the FBI had in this case before the murders – involvement with the KKK, KKK informants and/or spying on the activists. We do know that FBI COINTELPRO spied on Martin Luther King and harrassed him in this period. A few links to get those interested started may be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Racial_Equality https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_Liuzzo
FBI use of infiltration and informants sometimes makes for gray lines about what is and isn’t FBI action.