Discover more from Letters from an American
June 20, 2022
Fifty-eight years ago today, on Saturday, June 20, 1964, twenty-year-old Andrew Goodman arrived in Meridian, Mississippi, to work with Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old former New York social worker, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old Black man, to register Black voters. “Dear Mom and Dad,” he wrote on a postcard home. “I have arrived safely in Meridian Mississippi. This is a wonderful town and the weather is fine. I wish you were here. The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very good. All my love, Andy.”
What Goodman didn’t know was that members of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, dedicated to preserving segregation and to keeping Black people from voting, loathed Schwerner and at meetings routinely talked about killing him. They held off until they got authorization from the Klan’s state leader, Sam Bowers, but several weeks before Goodman arrived in Mississippi, they got that authorization.
The next day, Sunday, the three set out to investigate the recent burning of a church whose leaders had agreed to participate in voter registration, an arson that, unbeknownst to them, was committed by the same Klan members who had received authorization to kill Schwerner.
After the three men left the burned church, Deputy Sheriff Cecil Ray Price stopped their car, allegedly for speeding, then arrested them on suspicion that they had burned the church. That night, after they paid their speeding ticket and left, Price followed them, stopped them, ordered them into his car, and then took them down a deserted road and turned them over to two carloads of his fellow terrorists. They beat and murdered the men and buried them at an earthen dam that was under construction.
It turned out that Price and Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey were members of the Ku Klux Klan, and Price had alerted his fellow Klansmen that he had nabbed Schwerner, then dropped the three civil rights workers into their hands.
An FBI investigation to find the missing men ran up against both stonewalling and fear. Locals lied and obstructed the federal law enforcement officers, claiming that the three men had disappeared on their own hook to attract attention to the cause of voting rights. No state or local charges were brought against anyone suspected of being involved in the disappearances.
Finally, two of the Klansman cracked and began cooperating with the federal government.
In December 1964, 18 men were indicted for their participation in the murders. But the Ku Klux Klan members, who were accustomed to running their states as they saw fit, did not believe they would be punished. A notorious photograph caught Price and Rainey laughing at a hearing after their arraignment for conspiracy and violating the civil rights of the murdered men, both federal offenses.
Ultimately, Price was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison (he served four). Rainey, who was not at the murder scene, was found not guilty, but he lost his job and his marriage and blamed the FBI and the media for ruining his life.
Today, June 20, 2022, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri, disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, released an advertisement threatening those Republicans he considers too moderate, the so-called Republicans In Name Only. Greitens resigned from his governorship after a woman accused him of tying her up, photographing her, sexually assaulting her, and then blackmailing her, and the Missouri legislature agreed that Greitens had engaged in “multiple acts constituting crimes, misconduct, and acts of moral turpitude.” When Greitens’s ex-wife accused him of abusing her and their children, Greitens claimed the accusations were egged on by “the RINO swamp.”
In the ad, Greitens is armed with a shotgun and flanked with military personnel as they burst into a house. “Today, we’re going RINO hunting,” he says. “The RINO feeds on corruption and is marked with the stripes of cowardice,” he continues. “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”