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White House to Award Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24th to Slain Civil Rights Workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner

-- Andrew Goodman, Killed with Colleagues in Mississippi in 1964, Was a Queens College Student; Bells in the QC Clock Tower Named in Their Honor Will Toll --

FLUSHING, N.Y., November 21, 2014 – In a White House ceremony on Monday, November 24th, President Obama will honor 19 citizens who have, in his words, “made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.” Receiving the Medal of Freedom posthumously will be Andrew Goodman, a Queens College student who was murdered with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964 in Mississippi, for their work registering disenfranchised voters. The families will accept the award, the highest in the U.S. given to civilians, in their names. Schwerner was also connected to the college: his brother worked at the counseling center and his wife was a student.
 
“The entire Queens College community is extraordinarily proud that President Obama has recognized one of our own in this unprecedented way,” says Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, president of Queens College. “Andrew Goodman sacrificed his life for the cause of civil rights during Freedom Summer, which helped fuel the struggle and ultimately changed history. He and his co-workers are true American heroes and an inspiration to us all.”

To mark the occasion, Queens College will toll its Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner Clock Tower bell three times on November 24th at 12:15 pm—once for each of the young men. In 1989, the Benjamin Rosenthal Library’s Clock Tower, one of the highest landmarks in Queens, was renamed in their honor.

Mississippi’s senators and a Congressman, along with New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, had sponsored a bill to give the young martyrs their due. (Both Goodman and Schwerner were from New York; Chaney was from Mississippi.) “Voting is one of the most sacred rights we have as Americans and it is important for us to reflect on our past and honor those who have fought to ensure every citizen has access to that basic freedom,” Senator Gillibrand said.

For 44 days, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were missing. The F.B.I found their bodies buried 15 feet beneath an earthen dam. They had been murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.
 
Queens College, which hosted Martin Luther King as a speaker, has a long association with the civil rights movement. Dr. Carolyn Goodman, mother of Andrew, received the President’s Medal at QC’s 1996 commencement for her lifelong civil rights activism. At the June 2005 commencement, the college awarded the medal to Jerry Mitchell, a tenacious investigative reporter for the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, for stories that led to the arrest of Ku Klux Klan member Edgar Ray Killen. Three weeks later, a jury found Killen guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of the three civil rights workers.
 
Many Queens College students became involved with the struggle during the 1960s, joining the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP, and other civil rights organizations, marching on Washington, D.C., participating in strikes and sit-ins and, like Goodman, traveling to the South. Dorothy Zellner, class of 1960, helped recruit Mark Levy, ’64, to teach at a Freedom School set up in a Baptist seminary in Meridian, Mississippi—the local government had closed the schools rather than integrate them. About ten other QC students joined them in this dangerous work.

A lifelong activist, Levy went on to donate his materials from that time to the Queens College Library. Its Civil Rights Archives has received national renown for its collections—35 and still increasing. About 20 have been donated by alumni; other faculty and staff have donated to the collection As its reputation grows, the archives has received more materials from individuals with little or no prior connection to QC—photographs, letters, phone logs, etc. For example, the family of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist James Forman donated his books and other documents in 2011. Former NAACP director and Assemblyman Julian Bond attended the QC event celebrating the donation, and spoke about the legacy of the civil rights movement and its lessons for today.

For more information on the Queens College Civil Rights Archives, visit http://archives.qc.cuny.edu/civilrights/
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