crimesider

Town haunted by Klan killings elects first black mayor

James E. Chaney was one of three civil rights workers murdered in Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964. AP/FBI

NEW YORK -- A town haunted by the brutal slaying of three civil rights workers by the Ku Klux Klan elected its first black mayor this week.

In 1964, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two white men, and James Chaney, an African American, had come to Philadelphia, Miss. to register voters. Instead the trio were abducted, murdered and buried. Investigators found their burnt out station wagon and eventually their bodies, but were unable to fully bring their killers to justice.

In 1967, 18 were convicted of conspiracy and given light sentences. In 2005 - nearly four decades after the crime - Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old Klansmen, who was pivotal to the killings, was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 60 years.

"Mississippi Burning," a 1998 film starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe was based on the events.

But, as the New York Times reports, this week Philadelphia hopes to turn a page on its unfortunate history. The paper says Philadelphia's new mayor, Pentecostal Minister James A. Young, 53, was only four years old when the men were murdered. He was the only black student integrated into the town's all-white 6th grade. And last Tuesday, with more than half the vote, he helped to make history.

  • Neil Katz

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