Carolyn Goodman Papers, 1964-1971


The Carolyn Goodman Papers concern the 1964 murder of her son Andrew who was a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi. Andrew Goodman was born in New York City in 1943 to Robert Goodman, a civil engineer, and Carolyn Goodman, a psychologist. At the age of three, he entered the nursery school at Walden School in New York City, where he continued his education through high school. In 1961 he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. After pneumonia forced him to drop out in his freshman year, Goodman returned to New York, recovered his health, and won a part in an off-Broadway show. In 1962 he enrolled at Queens College, majoring in anthropology.

During his junior year at Queens, he was recruited for a COFO summer voter registration project in Mississippi. Training sessions in Oxford, Ohio, taught Andrew Goodman and the 400 other volunteers the importance of getting Southern blacks to register and vote, to effect a change in their depressed condition through the channels of the political system in Mississippi.

On June 21, 1964, Goodman arrived in Meridian, Mississippi, and on that same afternoon set out with veteran CORE workers Michael Schwerner and James Chaney to investigate the burnt ruins of a church which had been used for voter registration meetings. After this point, the facts concerning the remainder of their lives have never been completely established. Apparently, after they left the church ruins, they were arrested and released--only to be led into a Ku Klux Klan ambush. Chaney, the only black of the trio, was savagely beaten, and all three were shot to death. Their bodies were buried under an earthen dam that was under construction nearby.

After a six-weeks search by the State Patrol, the FBI, and the U.S. Navy, the bodies were located on August 4, 1964. Charges against 21 persons arrested for the murders were dropped on December 4, but on October 20, 1967, seven of the 21 were found guilty of conspiring to deny an individual his inalienable rights. This was a landmark decision in the civil rights movement, because it was an application of a 97-year old Reconstruction-era law and because it was one of the first convictions of Klan members in a Southern court.