Freedom Summer—Missing Workers

Frustrated by the continued intimidation and violence leveled against African Americans attempting to vote in Mississippi, and by the lack of federal intervention, civil rights organizers developed a new strategy in the summer of 1964. They enlisted large numbers of white college students from around the country to join workers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in the hopes of drawing media and federal attention to the situation.

SNCC recruited volunteers across college campuses and provided intensive training to make sure the new recruits could endure anti-integrationist Mississippi. On June 16, 1964, the Ku Klux Klan attacked the Mt. Zion Church in Neshoba County, Mississippi, assaulting the congregation and burning the church to the ground. On June 21st, civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner disappeared after meeting with members of the destroyed church. They were murdered by Klan supporters in collusion with local law enforcement personnel and were buried under an earthen dam.

Their bodies were not discovered until August 4th, forty-four days later. The long search for the missing activists attracted national attention and “Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney” became a rallying cry. Although reprisals against civil rights workers continued, the case generated national attention and provided added momentum to the pending Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed by President Johnson during the 44-day search.

Freedom Summer—Missing Workers: Clip on the disappearance of Cheyney, Goodman and Schwerner, featuring Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons.