I'm David Kendall. Today, I'm a lawyer in Washington, D.C., but forty years ago, while a college student in Indiana, I worked in northwestern Mississippi as part of the Mississippi Summer Project, trying to register black citizens to vote. I want to say just a few words in memory of Andy Goodman, whom I knew, and James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, whom I never met but feel that I knew.
Three hundred and fifty years ago, the English poet Henry Vaughn wrote a poem which began:
I'm a member of the '60's generation who never thought we'd turn 60, but we have. We're here to honor the memory of three other members of that generation who never had the chance.
I first met Andy Goodman on Sunday, June 14, 1964, exactly one week before his murder. By complete fortuity, we were assigned as roommates for the first one-week training session sponsored by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) at what was then the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. The days were long and tense. There were sessions on Mississippi history, culture and politics, nonviolence, voter registration, self defense, and our legal rights in Mississippi or rather the lack of them. Andy and I talked a lot about what we thought Mississippi would be like. Everyone was scared, everyone knew we would be in harm's way, but I think each of us thought in our heart of hearts that we'd come through OK.
I took voluminous notes that week which I kept but hadn't read for years. I can't remember specifically what Andy and I said to one another memory plays tricks on you forty years later but I believe that my notes captured pretty much verbatim what the various speakers said during the training sessions, and what Andy heard, and I believe what James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner would have heard as well.
James Forman, SNCC Executive Secretary, Monday, June 15, 1964, morning session:
"We can expect 3 things this summer
2) arrests and not for one or two days, could go on into future 3) someone to be killed"
Forman again, Tuesday, June 16, morning session
"Must be prepared for the worst then you're ready for anything Think of being killed fact of being put in jail or assaulted on street becomes less significant"
Later that same day, in the evening session, Charles Morgan, a white Alabama civil rights lawyer: "If you're not afraid in Mississippi, you're out of your mind."
In the summer of 1964, the summer volunteers were frequently called "outside agitators" by the newspapers, the police who arrested us, and the angry whites who screamed at us on Freedom Days at the county courthouse. We were in fact "agitators," I hope and believe, but we weren't really outsiders even though we didn't live here permanently and even though at the end of the summer, we would, except for Andy Goodman, return to a comfortable college life. We weren't outsiders here because the civil rights struggle we were engaged in and which others had been engaged in for a long time before and after the summer of 1964, wasn't just about Mississippi or the people who live here, it was about the entire United States, and we, the summer volunteers weren't outsiders there.
This was really a struggle about whose country and what kind of a country it was and who defines that and how, and who has the veto. It was the segregationists who were the outsiders, not the college students from New York and Indiana and California and Wisconsin. Forty years ago, the racists here had the police and the jails and murderous violence at their command but that didn't make them right or their power permanent.
James Chaney and Andy Goodman and Mickey Schwerner died for their country our country just as much as the US GI's who died on Omaha Beach in Normandy almost exactly twenty years earlier. Their struggle and their deaths, and the struggle and deaths of so many others in the Movement have established that this is not the country of the racists and the haters that they are the outsiders here.
I began with a poem and, because this is a place of worship, I want to end with the words of a hymn, in memory of James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who were murdered while fighting, nonviolently, for their country 40 years ago:
Copyright © 2004, David Kendall
Copyright © 2005
Last Modified: February 17, 2005.