Essential Pittsburgh
4:15 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

A Mother's Loss During The Freedom Summer

Missing Persons poster issued by the FBI on June 29, 1964, shortly after the men went missing.
Missing Persons poster issued by the FBI on June 29, 1964, shortly after the men went missing.
Credit Federal Bureau of Investigation / Wikimedia

Fifty years ago this week, three men who were working for Freedom Summer, a project to register black voters in the South, disappeared.

The bodies of Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, and Michael Schwerner were found 44 days later by the FBI.

The men had been driving through Mississippi when they were pulled over by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and led off the road, where they were shot and killed by members of the local Ku Klux Klan. 

Before she passed away in 2007, Goodman's mother Carolyn collaborated with author Brad Herzog on a book called My Mantelpiece, a memoir of survival and social justice. Herzog talked about his collaboration with Mrs. Goodman, who was an activist herself, and the influence she had on her son.

Herzog said the collaboration came about by chance. He was writing a travel memoir about towns with virtuous names such as Hope, Mississippi.

Hope is located near the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi where the murders of the Freedom Summer volunteers had occurred. The visit piqued his interest in the three men, particularly in Goodman’s mother, which led him to write about her for a magazine.

“Then she asked me to co author her memoirs with her, and over the course of several years I got to know her very well … and she unflinching told me her story,” he said.

Herzog discussed what he believed to be most crucial moment of Mrs. Goodman’s life. It's also the moment he chose for the opening of My Mantelpiece, when Andrew asked for permission to volunteer in Mississippi.

"So she had this dilemma. On one hand, she wanted to protect her son from anything hurtful, anything harmful. On the other hand, he was a reflection of who she and her husband Bobby were, and they were proud of it. And how could they possibly say no?... so they gave him permission to go, and when he left the room, she threw in some extra iodine and bandages into his duffel bag, figuring maybe he’ll get beat up a little, maybe he’ll get thrown in jail. Never did she imagine he would lose his life.”

Proceeds from sales of My Mantelpiece go toward the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

Tags: