We spent our second day in Mississippi touring around the countryside with a large caravan of 50 or more people and vehicles in the 50th Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service.
The day started off meeting and singing freedom songs with other groups that had come from near and far from New York, Indiana, and another group from Minnesota. Our purpose was to honor those who fell during the movement and also asked that justice be brought to the murderers of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. The murderers have not been officially charged with the crime, we learned yesterday.
These men were Civil Right activists who mysteriously disappeared after investigating the burning of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Neshoba County until their bodies were discovered six weeks later. Civil rights workers disappeared before this group did, but this event got national attention because there were two whites, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, and one black man, James Chaney.
After an hour delay due to the personal matters of the leader, John Steele, the caravan went to James Chaney’s home in Meridian, Miss.
The caravan continued onto Chaney’s gravesite, located in the countryside of Neshoba County. The grave had been vandalized ever since it was put in place, Steele said. Large black brackets held the headstone and the picture of Chaney had been shot out. We sang freedom songs and prayed at the gravesite.
After the gravesite, we drove to Rock Cut Road, which is where the actual murder took place. John Steele, instructed everyone to pick up a stone so that we would have a piece of history and something to remember James Chaney.
The caravan was then broken up when we tried to find the park where the picnic was being held. Finally, after getting lost a few times we found the park and enjoyed Popeye’s chicken and socializing with the others, we were back on the bus to the hotel after a long day.