icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


The Fight to Vote



In 1964, the Ku Klux Klan murdered Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner while working to register Black American voters during Mississippi's Freedom Summer. Their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam; it took 41 years to bring the main perpetrator, Edgar Ray Killen, to justice. Their deaths were a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, catalyzing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


--from the press releases of the Andrew Goodman Foundation and

NY State Senate Resolution 2157




My Walden School alumni email chain was busy this week with news of a resolution that has been passed in the New York State Senate to honor Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner 60 years after their murder. Walden was a small, progressive school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, one class per grade, the students moving up together K-12, and families interconnected personally and politically. I got there in the 11th grade after I'd been beaten up by a gang of girls in a public school and my refugee parents, in desperation, and knowing little of the city private school landscape, secured me a scholarship. I was two years younger than everyone, felt undereducated and lost, but also inspired by exceptional teachers and the kinetic activist culture of the school.


Walden remained a close community until the school merged with New Lincoln in 1988. Andrew Goodman's murder was a communal galvanizing tragedy, as it still is today. Many of my classmates knew the Goodman family; I did not. And when news arrived of the resolution, the email chain got hot. I was mostly touched by a few shared reminisces. A future historian may appreciate these stories, and make good use of them.


With everyone's permission, I'll share three memories that appeared on the email chain here:


From Judy (Fischman) Johnson:


Note: Andy is Andrew Goodman, Carolyn and Bobby are his parents, David and Johnny his brothers, Bernie is Judy's father, a well known attorney, and Mickey is Michael Schwerner.



 I often think of Andy. June 21-August 4. My parents, brother, and I spent every evening at Carolyn and Bobby's apartment with many family friends holding a vigil. On the evening of August 4th, someone had given Carolyn and Bobby tickets to the NY Philharmonic and insisted that they go. I don't remember where Johnny was, but David was home alone. The phone rang. David answered. It was Lyndon Johnson. He told David that the bodies had been found. David called my father. Bernie said that he would go to Lincoln Center and get Carolyn and Bobby. 


When Bernie got to Philharmonic Hall, he found the house manager and explained the situation. The manager let my father into the Hall while the concert was in progress. As my father searched one of the aisles, a scream rang out. Carolyn recognized Bernie's physique and knew there was only one reason why he was there. 


When Andy went to Mississippi, he was required to fill in a bail bond card with a contact person. My father was his contact. My family was also close to the Schwerners. They had been friends for over 20 years. When Mickey Schwerner was deciding who to take with him on that fateful night, my father was convinced that Mickey chose Andy because he saw Bernie's name on his bail bond card. Mickey would be riding with a young man who also knew Bernie. They had a friend in common. 


My father was also a point person arranging the payoff to the informant. I wish I remembered more about that. I only remember that he told me he was involved in the payoff. There was also a payment to a psychic who predicted that the boys' bodies would be found in a ditch. 


From Jane (Nisselson) Assimakopoulos:


I was pretty close to Andy in school. We used to have play dates after class and play with his electric trains; then we were camp-mates for a few summers at Camp Regis in the Adirondacks, and even boyfriend and girlfriend when we were too young for that to mean much. In my senior year (his junior year) at Walden I coached him for learning his lines, in French, for a production of Sartre's Les Mains Sales, and the last time I saw him was the summer after our freshman year in college when he and Carolyn drove out to my mom's place in Poundridge, NY and we talked mostly about his interest in theater and his budding actor aspirations. Then, the summer after my senior year, I was in Boston doing a make-up course at BU so I could get enough credits to graduate and go off to Greece. I spent that summer glued to the radio every afternoon until I finally learned, from my mother, not the radio, that Andy had been found. I missed the funeral because my class was not quite over, but mom and I drove to Carolyn's summer place somewhere in Westchester, I think, so I could see her before I left. I remember her  hugging me in pain and in desperation as if I was the last thing left to her of Andy. I wrote her and Bobby a long letter from Greece in which I talked about my own feelings of loss and how Andy's death was a piece of my own future forever cut off.

From Gabrielle (Schupf) Spiegel:


It is hard to think it has been 60 years. I still consider the worst day of my life the day I sat with Carolyn at her house waiting for them to bring Andy's body back.



I don't recall much of what we said, other than the fact that we talked about him as a wonderful classmate and good and brave friend dedicated to improving  society by promoting civil rights, the right to vote and other rights, for which he was killed. As I recall his father was especially upset—to  the extent that it was even possible to be more upset than Carolyn—perhaps  because he had not been in favor of Andy participating in the mission to the South to begin with.






Source: NY State Senate Resolution 2157 and  the Andrew Goodman Foundation



The family members of the three murdered young people who risked their lives that summer continue to be an inspiration. Andrew's brother, and Stephen Schwerner, Michael's brother, continued the fight for civil rights in the decades that followed. David and his family created the Andrew Goodman Foundation that supports youth leadership development, voting accessibility, and social justice initiatives in campuses across the country. Reverend Julia Chaney-Moss honors her brother's memory through continuing civil rights advocacy and through her ministry. Andrew Goodman was a student at Queens College at the time of his murder and Stephen A. Schwerner, Michael's brother, was director of counseling at Queens College for many years and chair of the academic senate. Queens College President Frank H. Wu is presenting President's Medals, the college's highest administrative honor, on Thursday, May 30, 2024, at the college's 100th Commencement to Julia Chaney-Moss, David Goodman, and Stephen A. Schwerner. 


To learn more visit    www.andrewgoodman.org



This post is dedicated to all the disenfranchised and reluctant voters in the United States.

May we all work tirelessly to register their vote.



Post a comment