Mississippi Burning Trial

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The Mississippi Burning Trial" was not for the cold-blooded murders of three young civil rights workers, but rather for the violation of their civil rights. The federal government wanted to break Mississippi's "white supremacy" stronghold on the South. "The Mississippi Burning Trial" proved to be the opportunity to do so. The three branches of the federal government and their various departments were actively involved in bringing about this civil rights trial in Mississippi and these activities and personal views are well documented in court records, department records, and the press. The federal government's Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were working to register black voters in rural areas and small towns of Mississippi. Their deaths were brutal at the hands of local Klu Klux Klan members. Brutality, however, was the norm for dealing with "outsiders, niggers, and nigger lovers" who dared to try to force Mississippi to change. The violence and racist language that make our skin crawl today was not only accepted by the majority of white Mississippians, but was openly practiced. Being of like minds,the powers of Mississippi knew they could count on one another for support from the local to the national levels. The federal government had the manpower, communications network, and finances to break apart Mississippi's white racist unity. If racial equality were to succeed in the South, it would have to come by way of the powerful federal government.

In 1964 The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized a 600 volunteer campaign to go into Mississippi and register black voters. It would be highly dangerous for there was little to no protection offered by local and county officials against KKK violence. J. Res Brown, one of only four black lawyers in Mississippi warned, "You're going to be classified into two groups in Mississippi: niggers and nigger-lovers, and they're tougher on nigger lovers." Michael Schwerner, a Jewish New Yorker, had already spent six months in Mississippi working for the Congress of Racial Equality. He knew how bad it was in Mississippi. He described Mississippi, "Is the decisive battleground for America. Nowhere in the world is the idea of white supremacy more firmly entrenched, or more cancerous, than in Mississippi." Mississippi had a very large active KKK organization. By day members were respected members of Mississippi society: store owners, law enforcement, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and ministers. Violence was their preferred method of dealing with enemies. The number of violent attacks on black citizens as well as "outsiders" fills volumes of record books.

Michael Schwerner joined forces with SNCC along with his chief aid, James Chaney, a black Mississippi native. They both had hopes that the federal government would be pushed by their numbers to increase FBI and federal protection for the students. The third man on their team was Andrew Goodman. He was a reasonably wealthy, white, 20 year old from Manhattan. Idealistic and eager to work, Andrew had no clue that his first day in Mississippi would also be his last. On the night of June 21st in Neshoba County the three young men disappeared after being stopped on a bogus traffic violation. After discovering their burned out car on the second day of the search, most everyone knew the three had been murdered. The press followed the search and brought the case to the nation's attention. Many bodies of murdered civil rights workers and black citizens were recovered from the backwaters and swamps as federal agents and Navy seamen scoured Neshoba County. The killers in Neshoba County had made a very grave mistake. They hadn't just murdered three local "colored boys" this time. The parents of Schwerner and Goodman had money; they had ties. So much so, that they were given an audience with President Johnson. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, made the young men's disappearance a priority...
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