On Nov. 24, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be awarded to the families of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights workers who were killed on June 21, 1964, near Philadelphia, Mississippi by members of the KKK, according to the The Clarion-Ledger.
“From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world,” President Obama said of the honor.
A bipartisan team rallied to get the workers the recognition. This year marks a historic 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, where college students and other volunteers joined the civil rights movement to end segregation and ensure the right to vote for African Americans. The pushback erupted with violence, resulting in arrests, beatings and church bombings.On the first day of summer, the Ku Klux Klan killed Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.
For 44 days, FBI agents searched for the young men. They traveled through “thickets, bogs and backwaters” before finding the the three young men buried 15 feet under dam.
Their murders helped galvanize the civil rights movement. It was said to have deeply influenced President Lyndon Johnson to support civil rights, who even ended one speech with the words from the grass-roots anthem “We Shall Overcome.”