James Chaney (1943-1964) was an activist during the Civil Rights Movement, fighting for voting rights for African Americans. He joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1963 and was part of a campaign for voter registration and desegregation known as the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. During this time, he was based in his hometown of Meridian MS, where he worked with voter rights activist Michael Schwerner. In June 1964, Ku Klux Klan members burned Mt Zion United Methodist Church in Neshoba County MS. On June 21, Chaney and Schwerner, along with “Freedom Summer” volunteer Andrew Goodman, who had been in Mississippi for less than 24 hours, went to investigate the church burning and violent beatings of church members. After leaving the church that day, the three men were stopped by police. They were taken to a jail in Philadelphia MS but were released later that evening, only to be chased down and murdered by klan members, who had been alerted by local law enforcement about the young men’s release and route back to Meridian. The murderers buried the bodies in an earthen dam in Neshoba County, where they were discovered on August 4, after a federal investigation.
“James Earl Chaney.” CORE, www.core-online.org/History/chaney.htm.
“Murder in Mississippi.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/freedomsummer-murder/.