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Mon, 11.06.1939

Michael Schwerner, Activist born

Michael Schwerner

*Michael Schwerner was born on this date in 1939.  He was a white Jewish-American civil rights activist.

From New York City, after graduating from Cornell University in 1961, Schwerner worked as a social worker in Manhattan. He married Rita Levant in June 1962 and the following year they joined the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE).   In January 1964 the Schwerners became CORE field-workers in Meridian, Mississippi, in preparation for Freedom Summer. On June 21, 1964, Schwerner and two of his friends, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, went to Longdale to visit Mt. Zion Methodist Church, a building that had been fire-bombed by the Ku Klux Klan because it was going to be used as a Freedom School.   On the way back to the CORE office in Meridian, Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price arrested the three men.  Later that evening they were released from the Neshoba jail.  Soon after they were stopped again on a rural road where a white mob killed them and buried them in an earthen dam.

On August 4, 1964, FBI agents found their buried bodies in the dam at Old Jolly Farm.   Eventually, nineteen men are arrested and charged with violating the civil rights of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman. This included Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price.   On February 24, 1967, Judge William Cox dismissed seventeen of the nineteen indictments. However, the Supreme Court overruled him and the Mississippi Burning Trial started on October 11, 1967. The main evidence against the defendants came from James Jordon, who had taken part in the killings.  He claimed that Price had released Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney at 10.25 but re-arrested them before they were able to cross the border into Lauderdale County.  Price then took them to the deserted Rock Cut Road where he handed them over to the Ku Klux Klan.

On 21st October 1967, seven of the men were found guilty of conspiring to deprive Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney of their civil rights and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years. This included James Jordon (4 years) and Cecil Price (6 years) but Sheriff Lawrence Rainey was acquitted.


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