Mt. Zion memorial June 19
The annual Mt. Zion memorial service for three young men murdered here by the Ku Klux Klan 58 years ago registering blacks to vote is set for this weekend and will include an address from the Philadelphia High School Principal and an art installation.
Rev. Michelle Dailey, pastor of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, said her congregation will hold its 58th Commemoration Service remembering James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner on Sunday, June 19, at 3 p.m. The theme is “58 Years Later… Moving Forward, Together.”
“We look forward to this time every year,” the Rev. Dailey said. “We still have people in our congregation who are part of families who were influenced during that time.”
This memorial comes full circle by bringing together a son of the Philadelphia community with the freedom summer training unit from Miami University, she said.
The speaker this year is Steve Eiland, the Philadelphia High School Principal. He has been in the field of education for 28 years, with 15 of those years working in the Philadelphia Public School District.
Additionally, Dr. Stephanie H. Danker the Assistant Professor of Art Education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, will speak on her research project entitled: “Finding Freedom Summer Traveling Panel Exhibit.”
The Rev. Dailey said the exhibit connects a powerful chapter of U.S. Civil Rights history to current-day challenges.
“The exhibit offers timely reminders of our nation’s troubled history, emphasizes the social-emotional attributes of those who stand to make a difference, and challenges youth to find and understand the power of their voices,” Dailey said. “These panels describe the details of the 1964 Freedom Summer events and will be on display at Mt. Zion during our celebration and will remain on display until the end of June. This is a must-see for everyone.”
Dailey said Danker visited the church recently while working on the project. She said she has seen a digital version of the art installation and looks forward to seeing it in person and hosting it in the church for the month of June. Dailey said this is the first stop for the traveling installation.
Finally, Dr. Davis Houck, the Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies in the School of Communication at Florida State University, will be present for the memorial. Dailey said Houck and his team will also conduct and record interviews with persons with knowledge of the 1964 Freedom Summer events on Saturday, June 18, for his research.
Houck is the author of 12 books including the upcoming “Black Bodies in the River: Searching for Freedom Summer,” which will be published in July by the University Press of Mississippi.
Dailey said those interested in talking to Houck can set up an interview for Saturday through her at 601-818-7643.
Musical selections from choirs will be under the direction of Gail Whitlock. Others participating in the program include Rev. Dayna Goff, Rev. Harold Coburn, Zariyah Jackson, Peggy Butler, Freddie Grady, Leflore Cole, Evelyn Cole Calloway, and many others.
The young men, James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, were in Neshoba County to investigate the June 16, 1964, burning of the Mt. Zion church set ablaze by the Ku Klux Klan.
Several members of the church such as the now late Bud Cole were severely beaten by a hooded mob that included law enforcement that night as they left a church meeting.
The trio, leaving the church on Father’s Day June 21 headed back through town to their headquarters in Meridian, was stopped and arrested on trumped-up speeding charges on Main Street and detained in the Neshoba County Jail until nightfall.
They were released and, as they traveled down Highway 19 south, ambushed at House by a gang of Klansmen that also included law enforcement. They were taken to a nearby remote county road and shot to death at point-blank range.
Their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam not far from the murder site following one of the most extensive federal searches in history.
The murders went unprosecuted for 40 years until 2004 when a multi-ethnic group of Neshoba countians led a community-wide call for justice endorsed by local business and political leaders, among others.
A Neshoba County grand jury indicted Edgar Ray Killen in 2005 and he was later convicted and sentenced to a 60-year prison term for arranging the murders. He died at Parchman Prison in January 2018. He was 92.