Andrew Goodman (November 23, 1943, – June 21, 1964) was one of three American civil rights activists murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, during Freedom Summer in 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Early life and education
Andrew Goodman was born and raised on the Upper West Side of New York City, at 161 West 86 Street, 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 at an early age, 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.
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.
Civil rights activism
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.
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 Religion School for education and voter registration.
Arrest, release and murder
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 hwy 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 patrol lights and two carloads of KKK members and taken to a remote rural road. The men approached their car, then shot and killed Schwerner, then Goodman, and finally Chaney.
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 persuade 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 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 three counts of manslaughter — not murder — on June 21, 2005, exactly 41 years to the day after the murders. He was sentenced to sixty years in prison—twenty years for each count, served consecutively.
New York State named Goodman Mountain, a 2,176-foot peak in the Adirondack Mountain town of Tupper Lake, NY, in 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 Street and Freedom Place (Riverside Blvd) tells his story.
Cedar Springs High School has a memorial to honor 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.
The Walden School, at 88th Street and Central Park West, named its middle and upper school building in Goodman’s memory. The Trevor Day School now occupies the building, and has maintained the building’s name as the “Andrew Goodman Building”.
His parents Robert and Carolyn Goodman set up the Andrew Goodman Foundation to support work for social justice.
An outdoor memorial theatre exists at Cedar Springs High School in Cedar Springs, MI, dedicated to the Freedom Summer alums. Miami University’s now defunct Western Program also included historical lectures about Freedom Summer and the events of the massacre at this theater.
Portrayal in culture
- “Southern Justice” by Norman Rockwell
- “Those Three are On My Mind” (Pete Seeger) was written to commemorate the three workers.
- The song “He Was My Brother” from Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. by Simon & Garfunkel is dedicated to Andrew Goodman.
- 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 two made-for-TV movies: The 1975 two-part TV movie, Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan, which was based on Don Whitehead’s book (Attack on Terror: The F.B.I. Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi) detailing the events a week before the assassinations and up to the conclusion of the Federal trial of the conspirators. Actor Andrew Parks portrayed “Steven Bronson,” a fictionalized representation of Andrew Goodman. The second TV movie was 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 actionwith 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.
- In Episode 1 of Season 4 of the TV series Mad Men, Don Draper’s date Bethany talks about Andrew Goodman : “The world is so dark right now”. And: “Is that what it takes to make things change?”
- Andrew Goodman is mentioned along with Schwerner and Cheney in “Song of Susannah.” Book 6 of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series.
The story was a backdrop in at least two first season episodes of the television series American Dreams (2002). (Down the Shore, High Hopes)