Andrew Goodman

Andrew Goodman

see also|Mississippi civil rights workers murders

Andrew Goodman (November 23, 1943 – June 21, 1964) was one of three American civil rights activists who were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, during Freedom Summer in 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan.


Andrew Goodman was born and raised on the Upper West Side of New York City, the middle of three sons of Robert and Carolyn Goodman, of Jewish heritage. His family and community were steeped in intellectual and socially progressive activism and were devoted to social justice. An activist from his early youth, Goodman graduated from the progressive Walden School; Walden was said to have had a strongly formative influence on his outlook. He attended the Honors Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a semester but withdrew after falling ill with pneumonia. Returning home to New York City, Goodman worked in a number of small productions as an actor. He worked construction on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which his father was building.

Goodman enrolled at Queens College, New York City, where he was a friend and classmate of Paul Simon. With his brief experience as an off-Broadway actor, he originally planned to study drama, but switched to anthropology. Goodman's growing interest in anthropology seemed to parallel his increasing political seriousness.

In 1964, Goodman volunteered along with fellow activist Mickey Schwerner to work on the "Freedom Summer" project of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to register blacks to vote in Mississippi. Having protested U.S. President Lyndon Johnson's presence at the opening of that year's World's Fair, Goodman left New York to train and develop civil rights strategies at Western College for Women (now part of Miami University) in Oxford, Ohio. In mid-June, Goodman joined Schwerner in Meridian, Mississippi, where the latter was designated head of the field office. They worked on registering blacks in rural areas to vote.

The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was strongly opposed to integration and civil rights. It paid spies to identify citizens suspected of activism, especially northerners who entered the state. The records opened by court order in 1998 also revealed the state's deep complicity in the murders of three civil rights workers at Philadelphia, Mississippi, because its investigator A.L. Hopkins passed on information about the workers, including the car license number of a new civil rights worker to the commission. Records showed the commission passed the information on to the Sheriff of Neshoba County, who was implicated in the murders. [ [ "Mississippi Commission's Files a Treasure Trove of Innuendo", AP, 18 March 1998] , accessed 9 May 2008]

Schwerner had been working closely with an assistant James Chaney, also a civil rights activist in Meridian. On the morning of June 21, 1964, the three men set out for Philadelphia, Neshoba County, where they were to investigate the recent burning of Mount Zion Methodist Church, a black church that had agreed to be a site for a Freedom School for education and voter registration.

On their return to Meridian, the three men were stopped and arrested by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price for allegedly driving 35 miles over the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit. The trio was taken to the jail in Neshoba County where Chaney was booked for speeding, while Schwerner and Goodman were booked "for investigation." After Chaney was fined $20, the three men were released and told to leave the county. Price followed them on state route 19 to the county line, then turned around at approximately 10:30 p.m. On their way back to Meridian, the three young men were stopped by two carloads of KKK members on a remote rural road. The men approached their car, then shot and killed Schwerner, next Goodman, and finally Chaney.


New York State named Goodman Mountain, a 2,176-foot peak in the Adirondack Mountain town of Tupper Lake, NY, in Andrew Goodman's memory. Goodman and his family had spent summers there.

New York City named "Freedom Place," a four-block stretch in Manhattan's Upper West Side, in honor of Goodman. A plaque on 70th and West End Avenues tells his story.

Queens College has a memorial to honor Andrew Goodman. The day of his murder is acknowledged each year on campus, and the clock tower of the campus library is dedicated to Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner.

Trevor Day School on 88th and Central Park West, formerly Walden, named the middle and upper school building in Goodman's memory.

His parents Robert and Carolyn Goodman set up the Andrew Goodman Foundation to support work for social justice.

Investigation and Trial

The FBI entered the case after the men disappeared. They helped find them buried in an earthen dam. The US government prosecuted the case under the 1870 Force Act. The Neshoba County deputy sheriff and six conspirators were convicted by Federal prosecutors of civil rights violations but were not convicted of murder. Two defendants were acquitted because of jury deadlock.


Journalist Jerry Mitchell, an award-winning investigative reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger had written extensively about the case for many years. Mitchell, who had already earned fame for helping secure convictions in several other high profile Civil Rights Era murder cases, including the assassination of Medgar Evers, the Birmingham Church Bombing, and the murder of Vernon Dahmer, developed new evidence, found new witnesses, and pressured the State to take action. Barry Bradford, an Illinois high school teacher, later famous for helping clear the name of Civil Rights martyr Clyde Kennard, and three students, Allison Nichols, Sarah Siegel, and Brittany Saltiel joined Mitchell's efforts. Their documentary, produced for the National History Day contest presented important new evidence and compelling reasons for reopening the case. They also obtained an interview with Edgar Ray Killen which helped convince the State to open the case for investigation. Mitchell was able to determine the identity of "Mr. X" the mystery informer who had helped the FBI discover the bodies and smash the conspiracy of the Klan in 1964, in part using evidence developed by Bradford and the students.

On September 14, 2004 the Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood announced that he was gathering evidence for a charge of murder and intended to take the case to a grand jury. On January 7, 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was arrested. He was found guilty of manslaughter — not murder — on June 21, 2005, exactly 41 years to the day after the murders.

Portrayal in culture

*"Those Three are On My Mind" (Pete Seeger) was written to commemorate the three workers.
* The Simon & Garfunkel song, "He Was My Brother", was dedicated to Goodman and alluded to his death.
* "Meridian" (1976, a novel by Alice Walker, dealt with issues of the civil rights era.
* The case was the basis (loosely) of the feature film "Mississippi Burning" (1988). Goodman is portrayed in the film by actor Rick Zieff and simply identified as "Passenger" in the film credits.
* It also inspired the made-for-TV movies "Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan", "Murder in Mississippi" (1990), in which Andrew Goodman was portrayed by the actor Josh Charles.
*In the Season 13 episode of the series Law & Order entitled "Chosen," defense lawyer Randy Dworkin (played by Peter Jacobson) prefaces a speech against affirmative action with the phrase, "Janeane Garofalo herself can storm into my office and tear down the framed photos of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, that I keep on the wall over my desk..." []
*Inspired Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky’s evening-long concert drama [ August 4, 1964] , which was based on the tragic events of that date 44 years ago: the discovery in Mississippi of the bodies of three recently murdered young civil rights workers and a spurious “attack” on two American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Commissioned to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Lyndon B. Johnson, it premiered to excellent reviews: [] .


External links

* [ The Movement That Helped Reopen The Case]
* [ The Andrew Goodman Foundation]
* [ Biography of Andrew Goodman]
* [ An interview with Dr. Carolyn Goodman, 89, mother of Andrew Goodman (September 2005)]
* [ Andrew Goodman's grave]

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