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Carolyn Goodman, 91; mother of rights worker slain in 1964

August 18, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Carolyn Goodman, the mother of one of three civil rights workers killed by the Ku Klux Klan in the "Mississippi Burning" case, died Friday. She was 91.

Goodman, who lived to see a Klan leader convicted in her son's death two years ago, died at her Manhattan home, her son Jonathan said. The cause of death was not announced.

Goodman's son Andrew was killed June 21, 1964, in central Mississippi's Neshoba County, along with fellow civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and James Chaney.

Chaney, a black Mississippian, and Schwerner and Goodman, white New Yorkers, had been investigating the arson of a black church and helping register black voters during what was known as Freedom Summer. They were abducted, shot and buried in an earthen dam.

The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."

Chaney's mother, Fannie Lee Chaney, died May 22, and Schwerner's mother, Anne Schwerner, died in 1996.

Carolyn Goodman and Fannie Lee Chaney testified in the 2005 trial of 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three consecutive 20-year prison terms. He had been acquitted of federal charges by an all-white jury in the 1960s.

After the 2005 verdict, Goodman said the real heroes were those who stood up to the hate groups.

"I know a lot of people in Mississippi who have risked their lives," she said. "I would say those are the most important people in my life. All the people who have stood up and the victims of the Klan."

In her testimony, Goodman told jurors about how her son wanted to go to Mississippi for the Freedom Summer of 1964 to help register black voters.

On June 21, 1964, she said, he sent his parents a postcard from Meridian. Several people in the courtroom wiped tears from their eyes as she read a copy of the postcard aloud: "This is a wonderful town and the weather is fine. I wish you were here. People here are wonderful."

Carolyn Goodman was a psychologist who founded a program to help mothers leaving mental hospitals learn parenting skills.

She set up the Andrew Goodman Foundation in 1966 to carry on her son's legacy.

A lifelong activist, she was arrested in 1999 at the age of 83 in a protest against the killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant who was shot by police.

In an interview, she said Diallo died because the officers who fired at him may have perceived him as a threat "in the same way that these white people in the South felt threatened by those who were going down" to register black voters in 1964.

"I couldn't tolerate it," she said. "I'm older, sure, but I can still go on doing things."

Survivors include her sons Jonathan and David.

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