In June of 1964, three idealistic young men (one black and two white) were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. They were trying to register African Americans to vote as part of the Freedom Summer effort to bring democracy to the South. Their disappearance and murder caused a national uproar and was one of the most significant incidents of the Civil Rights Movement, and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
THE FREEDOM SUMMER MURDERS will be the first book for young people to take a comprehensive look at the brutal murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, through to the conviction in 2005 of mastermind Edgar Ray Killen.
About the Author
Kirkus Starred Review
A 50th-anniversary examination of the Mississippi murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner and their aftermath.
An introduction describes the legally entrenched racism of Mississippi and the inception of the Freedom Summer campaign. Following this, Mitchell drops readers right in with the events that led up to the murder of the three young men, evoking the hostility and fear that covered Neshoba County like a blanket. He pulls back to sketch the victims’ biographies in separate chapters, then takes readers through the investigation and the steps toward the 1967 trial that infamously failed to deliver justice. That account alone, illustrated with ample archival photographs and memorabilia, makes riveting reading. He clearly states the legal intricacies and thoroughly incorporates the players’ own voices, with often breathtaking effect: “They killed one nigger, one Jew, and a white man. I gave them all what I thought they deserved,” said the presiding judge later. Mitchell takes the story into the present day, describing how the families of the victims continue to fight for civil rights and how both locals and state officials kept the case alive, simultaneously working toward legal and emotional resolution. He leaves open the question whether now “the killing of a black mother’s son is as important as the killing of a white mother’s son”—but the country is getting closer to that goal.Essential.
- Kirkus Best Book of the Year
- A 2015 Children’s Choice Book Award Finalist