Murdered Jewish Civil Rights Workers to Receive Presidential Medal

Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, both N.Y. Jewish activists, and James Chaney were slain while trying to register voters in Mississippi in 1964.

Wikimedia Commons

President Barack Obama is planning to posthumously award three Jewish civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, activists from New York, were trying to register voters in Philadelphia, Mississippi, together with James Earl Chaney, a local African-American, when they went lynched and brutally murdered by members of the KKK on the night of June 21, 1964

“These three young men, and countless others, paid the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to help bring equality to the state of Mississippi," the office of U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, who represents Mississippi's Second District, announced Monday. "Bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor to these three men is a fitting tribute for their contribution toward making this country a more perfect Union."

Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League praised the move. "When they went to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to help African-Americans register to vote and to teach people about their constitutional rights, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner knew they were risking their own lives," they announced in a joint statement."Their tragic deaths were certainly not in vain. Their murders catalyzed the nation and helped lead to the passage of the both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, two of the most important and influential civil rights laws ever passed."

Established by President John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the United States. The awards will be presented posthumously at the White House on November 24.