On this day: Arrest in Mississippi Civil Rights murders

January 6 2005: Former KKK man indicted for murder


In the “Freedom Summer” of 1964 three civil rights activists in America’s Deep South – two of whom were Jewish - were lynched in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

In 1988 the murders of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney became the subject of the Oscar-winning film Mississippi Burning. But it took more than four decades for their killer to be brought to justice, when a jury indicted Edgar Ray Killen on three counts of murder.

Ex-Klansman and part-time Baptist minister Killen, 80, was convicted of orchestrating and directing the murders six months later and given three consecutive 20-year sentences. His appeal in 2007 was unsuccessful.

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said after the sentence was handed out that it was “long overdue, but…nonetheless gratifying to see that justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied.”

Schwerner and Goodman, both in their 20s and from New York, were two of the Jewish activists who featured heavily in the fight for civil rights in 1950s and 1960s America.

The connection between the struggles of the two groups was not lost on leader Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, who once said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe.

“Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid us of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.”

What the JC said: About 2,200 people attended the funeral in New York on Sunday of Andrew Goodman, the 20-year-old Jewish student from Queens College, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Mississippi State last week…Outside, the great crowd of Negroes and Whites stood silently, then began chanting softly the Civil Rights anthem “We shall overcome.” A Negro woman sat crying during the service, She was Betty Smith, who has worked for the Goodman family for 15 years and had nursed Andrew Goodman.

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Last updated: 9:47am, January 6 2011