Those Three Are On My Mind
June 21, 2014 1:07 PM   Subscribe

James Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Michael Schwerner. Murdered by the KKK 50 years ago today, in one of the galvanizing events of the struggle for civil rights in the South. (previously 1, 2, 3)

I think of Andy in the cold wet clay
Those three are on my mind
With his comrades down beside him
On that brutal day
Those three are on my mind

There lays young James in his mortal pain
Those three are on my mind
So I ask the killers can you see those three again
Those three are on my mind

I see dark eyed Michael
With his dark eyed bride
Those three are on my mind
And three proud mothers
Weeping side by side
Those three are on my mind

But I'm grieving yet
And for some the sky is bright
I cannot give up hoping
For a morning light
So I ask the killers do you sleep at night
Those three are on my mind

I see tin roof shanties
Where my brothers live
Those three are on my mind
And the little burnt out churches
Where they sing we forgive
Those three are on my mind

I know of Tom Paine's Water Tree
I know the price of liberty
Now I ask the question that is deep inside of me
Did they also burn the courthouse
When they killed those three
Those three are on my mind
Those three are on my mind
posted by scody (31 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
It's also urgent to note that the rights Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner and many others died for are still under attack.
posted by scody at 1:30 PM on June 21, 2014 [17 favorites]

I knew about these murders, but did not know about Seeger's memorial song. Thanks for posting that. It's something I sort of feel I should learn. Maybe I will work on that today.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 PM on June 21, 2014

Paul Simon was a classmate of Andrew Goodman and wrote He Was My Brother in his honor.
posted by jonp72 at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Rachel Maddow did a piece a couple of days ago, and I was more surprised than perhaps I should have been to learn how James Chaney's grave has been repeatedly vandalized over the years.
posted by ambrosia at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

While searching for these three, the Feds found the bodies of eight previously lynched black men murdered by the KKK that nobody bothered to look for.
posted by absalom at 1:40 PM on June 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

PLEASE throw this directly into the faces of anyone demanding "a return to traditional values and freedoms".
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:08 PM on June 21, 2014 [16 favorites]

. . .
posted by tzikeh at 2:19 PM on June 21, 2014

Upon learning of the repeated vandalization of Chaney's grave, this is one of the things that makes me feel ashamed as a native Southerner, as well as the original crime.

We have so so far to go. We do not live in a post-racial society.
posted by Kitteh at 2:34 PM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


They died trying to lift their fellow man up, killed by those trying to put their fellow man down. There's some stains on history that will never wash out.
posted by arcticseal at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

I first learned about this passage in history when I saw the 1990 TV movie Murder in Mississippi. It had a fine cast whose names meant nothing to me at the time: Tom Hulce, Blair Underwood, Josh Charles, Jennifer Grey (okay I would have known who Grey was but I don't remember her being in it at all), CCH Pounder. The movie covers that last three weeks of the three men's lives and I remember how they were trained to take insults and provocation without losing their tempers, and the very terrifying scene in which they thought they'd outrun some vehicles that were chasing them and started joking about what they wanted for dinner, only to find their road blocked by the KKK.
posted by orange swan at 3:25 PM on June 21, 2014

. . .
posted by lord_wolf at 3:29 PM on June 21, 2014

The well-made Alan Parker theatrical release Mississippi Burning came out in 1988, and I can recommend it as another document about this particular ugly chapter of US history.
posted by hippybear at 3:30 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

A friend just sent me this link to the preview for a new documentary on Freedom Summer, which will be premiering on PBS starting June 24.
posted by scody at 6:27 PM on June 21, 2014

I have heard about this case for as long as I can remember. It is the sort of thing that makes me ashamed to be a white person from the south. I did not realize and am appalled to hear that people (and I use the term loosely) still vandalize Mr Chaney's grave. Given the involvement of Neshoba County law enforcement in the case, one would think the local sheriff would post a 24 hour guard at the site out of a sense of decency. I guess Reagan let them know bygones are bygones now.

(I remember ca. 1970 the first photo in the Annie Holdt article being sold as a poster with a caption along the lines of "Support your local sheriff" but can't find a copy of it online.)
posted by TedW at 7:38 PM on June 21, 2014

Ugh; missed the edit window by seconds. My Reagan link was supposed to go here rather than the tepid defense of him that it did go to. The perils of posting a multi-link comment from an iPad.
posted by TedW at 7:46 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Somehow, aware of them for decades, it took me 59 yrs to notice they were killed on my birthday.
posted by wrapper at 8:18 PM on June 21, 2014

Yeah, I was slow as well. It took me 50 yrs to realize.
posted by wrapper at 8:25 PM on June 21, 2014

I myself would not recommend Mississippi Burning; despite the awesome performances by great actors, it suggests that white FBI agents were the heroes of the case (and the local Black folks passive victims) when we know for a fact that Hoover's FBI did everything it could to keep hands off of all of those murders.

Seth Cagin and Philip Dray's We Are Not Afraid is a very detailed and horrifying look at the case.

. . . (. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . et al.)
posted by allthinky at 8:55 PM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Norman Rockwell weighs in.
posted by TedW at 9:04 PM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

This was where LBJ broke Hoover, and put the FBI in the service of the President at long last. Hoover and Johnson genuinely liked each other, but when push came to shove, Johnson knew where more skeletons were hid. Hoover would break the KKK, or Johnson would break Hoover.

The downside was the escalation in Viet Nam and Nixon and the Southern Strategy - but really, breaking the Top Cop to the reigns of an elected office was worth it in the long run. If you're not Vietnamese or Cambodian.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:09 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Eyes On The Prize does a good treatment of this tragic event.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:12 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by tessmartin at 3:08 AM on June 22, 2014

Robert Reich grew up with Michael Schwerner and posted a very nice tribute to him on Facebook.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:30 AM on June 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Thanks for this post, scody. I recently watched and recommend the documentary Neshoba, which is available on Amazon prime. It's about the 2005 trial and conviction of Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen on 3 counts of manslaughter for these killings. It's pretty remarkable that he was convicted given the attitudes expressed to the filmmakers by many in the community.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:52 AM on June 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

She was singing about Medgar Evers, but Nina Simone's commentary hadn't lost any of its relevance or punch when Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were murdered a year and a week later, nor 8 months after that when she played it at the third Selma civil rights march.
posted by gingerest at 10:36 PM on June 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, never heard that song, gingerest, so thanks. Damn she was so powerful!
posted by madamjujujive at 6:50 AM on June 23, 2014

The woman I love is a black woman.
When we go out in the white community we are accepted as long as it's just the two of us.
When we go out into the white community with our friends, who are mostly black, it's a different situation.
Most of my white friends got uncomfortable and slyly abandoned us when I included her friends in my social circle.
Mostly we circulate in the black community. I had to confront my own racism. I'm not perfect.

Yah, well, when we visited her family in Mississippi, I was told beforehand how to behave.
Even though I never put my hands on her in public, all those peckerwoods knew we were together.
Shitbirds did not disguise their racism
I am not normally afraid, even in the midst of many enemies.

I was afraid the entire time I was there. I was armed with every kind of weapon whenever I went out. My Uncle Jewel loaned me his WWI trench knife, which I would have cheerfully used. I got called a niggerlover and a she-boon fucker, etc.

You think there's any difference between 1964 and now there isn't. These people do not accept they lost the civil war.

I got into a fistfight with one stupid fucker and I only got out of it after I beat his ass because I carry a county deputy badge.
Don't even think there's much difference between now and 1964 down there.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:09 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Shitbird peckerwood motherfuckers.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:15 AM on June 25, 2014

There isn't much difference between 1964 and now in Seattle, either.
Seattle is segregated as Montgomery, Alabama.
Shitbirds here are patting themselves on the back so hard because they elected a conservative white gay man as mayor, thanks to Comcast, they think they can get a pass for race.

Piss on that noise. Racism is as alive and well in Seattle as it is anywhere in the South.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:26 AM on June 25, 2014

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