Mt. Zion Methodist Church nominated for National Register
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:00 PM
Mt. Zion United Methodist Church might soon be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, after its nomination was approved by the Mississippi National Register Review Board.
The nomination now awaits action by the National Register in Washington, D. C.
The review of the nomination must occur within 45 days after it is received by the National Register office.
Mt. Zion Church was burned by the Ku Klux Klan on June 16, 1964, nearly a week before three men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were ambushed and murdered by the klan in Neshoba County on June 21, 1964.
The Klan believed the church was playing a central role in the black voter registration effort. Several members were beaten, some severely, as they left the church on the night of the fire.
The three men investigated the church burning and drove back into Philadelphia where they were arrested and jailed. They were released that night and pursued by a mob that included law enforcement. They were taken to a remote county road and shot at point-blank range.
After a massive federal search, their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam off Highway 21 south.
In 1967, seven men were convicted of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the young men. Some served prison time.
In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist preacher and sawmill owner, was indicted by a Neshoba County grand jury and later convicted on three counts of manslaughter for his role in orchestrating the murders.
He received three 20-year consecutive sentences and is still serving.
The murders gained international attention because Goodman and Schwerner were white. The Neshoba County murders helped lead to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.