Ever since slavery was abolished in the United States Of America, it’s been an endless fight by the African-American community to urge a semblance of “REAL FREEDOM.”
They have matched and died, all for a fundamental human right, which is Freedom. Though times have changed, the scenarios haven’t.
The fight for Freedom – freedom to vote and chose those that will represent them, claimed the life of an African-American and two white sympathizers of the civil rights cause of Black people. Their names were Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney.
The fight to retain the right to vote for only white people was white America’s way of maintaining the codes of white supremacy and white privilege. And the KKK was (an till date) a militia bent on enforcing white supremacy in America.
White Supremacy came hard on Blacks, but they retaliated with civil rights movements, peaceful protests, boycotts, and oftentimes violent protests, in their demand for their rights to school, marry, own properties, travel without hindrance, and vote.
The Blacks of that time understood political power, and how it can save a people, so they wanted the rights to vote, more than other anything.
On the 21st of June, 1964, the three men who were killed by the KKK, drove down to ascertain the reason a Black methodists church was burnt down.
The church was important to them as it had been a venue for a civil rights meeting, a few weeks before the incident.
That afternoon, around 3 pm, they were stopped by Cecil Price, the County Deputy Sheriff, of Neshoba, outside of the town of Philadelphia.
Price, who was a staunch member of the KKK, maliciously threw them into the Neshoba County jail, accusing them of overspending. Prior to the arrest, reports said that he was on the lookout for Schwerner, one of the three.
Cecil Price would later release them that night at about 10:30 pm. And that was the last time anyone saw them alive.
While the arrest happened, the three had other assignments that they were supposed to be at in Oxford, Ohio. There, some groups of volunteers were waiting to travel to the south with them on civil rights activities.
A member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bob Moses, noted in a statement after their murder, that “we had to tell the students what was going on because if anyone was arrested and taken out of jail, then the chances that they are alive is almost zero…”
In a matter of days, the disappearance of the three civil rights fighters had made the national news. President Lyndon Johnson ordered a large search party to go around looking for them. The FBI headed the search team, and sooner, 200 sailors from the Naval Air Station in Meridian entered Philadelphia to join the FBI agents and others.
Two months later, their bodies were discovered where they were buried, thanks to a tip-off. They were shot to death by members of the local White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The investigation also revealed that the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department were involved in the murders.
Despite the findings, the state government refused to prosecute the murderers. But in 1967, the United States Federal Government charged 18 of the murderers with civil rights violations. The court convicted 7 out of the 18, but gave them very minor sentences, despite their actions.
The murder and death of these three fueled the fire that gave birth to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being passed into law.
One of the killers, Edgar Ray Killen, was charged for his involvement in the murder, by the State of Mississippi, in 2005. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison, for three counts of manslaughter. He died in jail in 2018, but the case was officially closed on June 20, 2016, by state and federal authorities.