October 29, 2020
By Sister Jan Hayes
On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Clan in Neshoba County, Mississippi. The three young men—two white and one Black, all in their 20s—were working with the Freedom Summer Project to register African Americans to vote. They had spent the afternoon investigating the burning of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in the community of Longdale, a possible location for a Freedom School, before the KKK pulled their car over then abducted and brutally killed them. Their bodies were buried in an earthen dam a few miles from the church. The FBI’s investigation of this case was reenacted in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning. This year marks the 56th anniversary of their deaths.
Civil rights activists have secured many gains since 1964, one of the most notable being the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite this progress, however, many of the same voter suppression techniques used then are resurfacing today. Today, there are still those who would like to stop persons of color and those who are economically poor from exercising their legal right as citizens to vote, a basic tenet of a democratic society. Not only do they want to halt the forward progress that has been gained in voting rights, they want to turn back the clock to erase it. Across the United States, state legislatures and political leaders have enacted restrictive laws that criminalize the submission of incomplete voter registration forms via voter-registration drives. They are eliminating polling locations in communities of color and on college campuses. The governor of Texas has limited absentee ballot drop boxes to one location per county, making it difficult if not impossible for persons with limited transportation to use them; that restriction was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arbitrary voting barriers, such as requiring voter IDs but rejecting student IDs, are preventing more people from participating in our elections.Read More