Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mississippi FBI building may be named after slain civil rights workers

The new FBI headquarters in Mississippi may be named after slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, who were murdered during Freedom Summer in 1964:

The Jackson City Council will vote today on a resolution supporting the move. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were killed June 21, 1964, while participating in Freedom Summer, an intensive voter registration drive aimed at breaking Mississippi's resistance to civil rights for African Americans.

The three men were investigating the burning of a black church in Neshoba County when they were arrested by a county deputy, held for several hours and then disappeared.

Their bodies were discovered weeks later. National reaction to the deaths was used as leverage for the passage of landmark civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A similar resolution to name the FBI field office in Jackson, the state capital, after the civil rights workers was passed by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors in August after officials with the Mississippi branch of the NAACP approached Supervisor George Smith.

"It could send a signal to the rest of the nation that we at least understand some of the things that have happened in the past and realize that this is in tune of correcting some of the negatives back then," Smith said.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said the agency will defer to Congress for a final decision on naming the building, which the federal government is leasing.

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