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Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman disappearance



Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman disappearance


Goodman, Andrew, 1943-1964
Chaney, James Earl, 1943-1964
Schwerner, Michael Henry, 1939-1964
Freedom Summer Project (Mississippi)
Civil Rights--Mississippi--History--20th century


Council of Federated Organizations (U.S.)




Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives (New York, N.Y.)



Date Created



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Spatial Coverage

Neshoba County Miss.

Alternative Title

Report on the events immediately following the disappearance of Michael Schwerner, James Cheney and Andrew Goodman


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June 22, 1964 MEMO RE: The disappearance of three summer project workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, while investigating the bombing of a Negro church which was to be the site of a community center this summer.
Three workers for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) have been reported missing since late yesterday afternoon during a trip to Neshoba County in middle-eastern Mississippi.
The three are Michael Schwerner, 21, and Andrew Goodman, 20, both from New York City, and James Cheney, 21, of Meridian, Miss. Schwerner and Cheney: are CORE workers and Goodman a summer volunteer. Cheney is Negro. They had gone to Philadelphia, Miss. in Neshoba County, to investigate the bombing of Mr. Zion church and the beating of three Negroes there June 17.
The communications spokesman for the Meridian, Miss., CORE office said that the three left Meridian at 10 a.m. yesterday with the intention of returning to Meridian before 4 p.m. They have not been heard from since they left Meridian.
COFO and SNCC workers have been in touch with all local jails and hospitals, but only the sheriff of Neshoba has said that he knows anything about the group. The sheriff said the group was arrested late yesterday afternoon on a charge of speeding in their car, but were released by 10 p.m. He said that he knows nothing of their whereabouts after their release.
John Doar, a top lawyer of the civil rights division of the Justice Department, said today that the Justice Department is investigating. Earlier, a Department lawyer in Philadelphia, Miss., and an FBI agent in Jackson, the state capitol, said that they did not feel they had the authority to become involved in the search for the three workers. They said they were not sure a federal statute had been violated.
Fathers of both Goodman and Schwerner have spoken to Nicholas Katzenbach and Doar of the Justice Department to demand investigation of the case. Summer Project volunteers at the orientation session at Oxford, Ohio, are telephoning and sending telegrams to their Senators and Congressmen to demand Justice Department and FBI investigation of their disappearance.
Schwerner, project director at Meridian, is a graduate of the New'York School of Social Work. Goodl‘an is a junior at Queens College.
Senator Jacob Javits (R.-N.Y.) has notified summer volunteers
from New York who called him today that he is apprised of the situation in Mississippi and is in contact with the Justice Department.

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5:30 PM: The Jackson COFO office called the following jails and cities in an attempt to locate the three missing workers: the Philadelphia City Jail, Neshoba County Jail, Me idian City Jail, Decatur City Jail, Squalens, and Collinsville. The calls to the last two cities were referred to the Neshoba Meridian, and Philadelphia jails. At these jails all knowledge of the party was denied. In particular, the Philadelphia police said that they knew nothing at all about the case. The Newhoba County sheriff was in Meridian at the time (Sheriff Rainey).
1:00 AM The Philadelphia and Meridian jails were called again. They again denied any knowledge of the case.
6:55 AM Jackson COFO called the Philadelphia jail again. We spoke to the wife of the jailkeeper, Mrs. Herring. Contrary to what we had been told the preceding night, she now said that the three had been arrested the previous afternoon for speeding and were released after paying
a $20 fine. She said the three had been released at about, 6:00 PM, just after eating dinner.
7:15 AM All other jails as well as hospitals between Philadelphia and Meridian were then contacted again. The Decatur
jail was called and Deputy A. L. Johnston said he knew nothing further on the case. Deputy Bill Jackson at the Lauderdale County jail said the same.
10:50 AM We received information from come white people in Philadelphia that the workers were still in jail as of 9:00 PM last night: that the workers appeared to have been beaten, though not seriously; that it was believed that the workers were still in jail in the morning. As the sources did not want their names revealed to us, we had no means
of checking out these unconfirmed reports; but the information was given to the FBI.
1:00 PM A UPI story reported that Philadelphia police said that
the three workers were released at 10:30 PM. Another
report reached reporters that they had been released at
6:00 AM. It was also learned that the arresting officer was sheriff Deputy Cecil Price, that the Justice of the Peace who passed sentence was Mr. Len Warren, and that Sheriff Rainey held to the story that the trio were released at 6:00 PM.

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COFO Contacts . . . . 2
Meridian reported that workers who searched the highway between Philadelphia and Meridian saw no evidence of a search being carried on. They claimed they saw idle Highway Patrol cars.
It was reported that reporters had been permitted to go through the Philadelphia jail and were satisfied that the three workers were not were. While returning to 'Meridian, the reporters also checked out the jails along the way.
5:00 AM: CORE workers Landy McNair and George Raymond left Meridian for Philadelphia as a search party investigating the Schwerner case.
8:00 PM: McNair and Raymond reported back that they were followed closely by local police during the day - - only after they (McNair and Raymond) had contacted the FBI. When they went to the office to investigate, the sheriff’s of Neshoba County refused to see them. They were held for half an hour and questioned rudely by officers in the office,
Meridian reported that John Lewis, James Farmer, Dick Gregory, and George Raymond returned from Philadelphia
after an unsuccessful attempt to inspect the area in
which the burned car was found and the area where the
church had been burned. Police stopped all but two cars
at the border of county. The four met with Philadelphia officials and presented their request to go into those areas. They were told that the FBI, the Mississippi State Investigators, and the Highway Patrol had their
own searching and investigating system worked out.
Furthe more, they were told, these areas are private property and search warrants would be needed to enter and search. Entry would involve the risk of jailing or of being shot. They were, in short, refused permission to look at either spot. They returned to Meridian with their convoy of 35 people.
Another car, traveling alone with Dona Moses, Matteo Suares, and others, was stopped by the Highway Patrol in Neshoba County on the way back to Meridian. The officer told Dona Moses she had better address him as "Yes Sir." His whole demeanor was aggressive and intimidating. When told that they had come to find out about the missing trio, he replied, "There's nothing to investigate. "

Original Format

8.5 x 11 inches (216 x 279 mm)


Council of Federated Organizations (U.S.), “Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman disappearance,” Queens College Civil Rights Archives, accessed May 23, 2022, http://archives.qc.cuny.edu/civilrights/items/show/238.