21.06.

1964: Members of the Ku-Klux-Klan Killed Three Civil Rights Activists

1964: Members of the Ku-Klux-Klan Killed Three Civil Rights Activists
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 21 June 1964
  • Eighteen individuals were indicted, including a deputy sheriff and Ku-Klux-Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers.

On this day in 1964, a hate crime occurred that shocked the American public.

Conflict between the Ku-Klux-Klan and civil rights activists, who were attempting to register African Americans to vote, had already lasted for several months in the American Southern state of Mississippi. In April that year, members of the KKK burned crosses on 61 locations throughout Mississippi, and in June they burned the Mount Zion Church to the ground, because it supported African Americans.

On this day, three activists for the rights of African Americans drove to Mississippi to see scorched ruins of the church. The group consisted of two Caucasians (Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner) and one African American (James Chaney).

The Deputy Sheriff, who was a member of the KKK, stopped them on a local road on charges of driving 35 mph in 30 mph zone. They were taken to jail and, at 10 o’clock in the evening, as agreed with the Klan, they were released. As they drove off, they were met by two trucks of Klan members on a local road. They were killed, and African American James Chaney was tortured prior to being murdered. Their bodies were buried, so they were not found for the next 40 days. The FBI was alerted due to the disappearance of activists and organized a major investigation.

 The director of the FBI, the famous J. Edgar Hoover, personally arrived in Mississippi. Approximately 1,000 people were questioned, of which about 500 members of the KKK. Eighteen individuals were indicted, including a deputy sheriff and Ku-Klux-Klan Imperial Wizard Samuel Bowers (the Imperial Wizard is the highest-ranking leader of the KKK). No one served more than 6 years in prison for this crime.

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