During the Freedom Summer of 1964 three civil rights activists were jailed briefly in the small Neshoba County jail on trumped up charges. When Mickey Shwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were released that night, they were followed by Ku Klux Klan members tipped off by the sheriff’s office. They were forced off the road en route to their office in Meridian, taken to this remote backroads location and bludgeoned to death. Their bodies were later found in an earthen dam.
The following is excerpted from “The American Experience” of PBS:
On June 21, 1964, three young men disappeared near the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael (Mickey) Schwerner and James Chaney worked for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in nearby Meridian; Andrew Goodman was one of the hundreds of college students from across the country who volunteered to work on voter registration, education, and Civil Rights as part of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. The three men believed their work was necessary, but also dangerous: Ku Klux Klan membership in Mississippi was soaring in 1964 — with membership reaching more than 10,000. The Klan was prepared to use violence to fight the Civil Rights movement; on April 24 the group offered a demonstration of its power, staging 61 simultaneous cross burnings throughout the state.Over the course of the summer of 1964, members of the Klan burned 20 black Mississippi churches. On June 16, Klan members targeted Neshoba County’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where Schwerner had spent time working. Before burning the church, the Klan severely beat several people who had been attending a meeting there. Schwerner, however, was not there that day; he had gone to Oxford, Ohio, to train a group of Freedom Summer volunteers. Upon returning to Mississippi, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney visited the charred remains of Mt. Zion. On the drive back to Meridian, their station wagon, known to law enforcement as a CORE vehicle, was stopped, and police arrested all th