New York, NY, November 11, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today applauded the naming of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
The civil rights activists, who were murdered in Mississippi in June 1964 while trying to register voters during the Freedom Summer, gave their lives defending civil rights and trying to expand the right to vote. Schwerner, 24, and Goodman, 20, were both Jewish activists from New York, and Chaney, 22, was an activist from the local African-American community. June 21 marked the 50th anniversary of their murders.
Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
We are very pleased that, 50 years after their deaths, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner are receiving the recognition they deserve for defending civil rights and protecting the fundamental right to vote.
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 were murdered while working to ensure that everyone could exercise their fundamental right to vote and have an equal say in our democracy. 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.
Our country owes a profound debt of gratitude to Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner – and their families. Their passion for civil rights and dedication to securing equality for all helped propel our country forward immeasurably. As we mark the 50th anniversary of their senseless murders, we strongly applaud President Barack Obama’s decision to award them the nation’s highest civilian honor.