US Coins

Civil rights activists to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party supporters demonstrating outside the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Some are holding signs with portraits of slain Civil Rights workers, left to right, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Three young men who were murdered during a voter registration drive in Mississippi in 1964 will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were civil rights activists and participants in the voter registration drive known as “Freedom Summer.”

This year is the 50th anniversary of their kidnapping and subsequent murders on June 21, 1964.

Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were registering African-Americans to vote during the Freedom Summer of 1964, assisting the Congress of Racial Equality in Mississippi.

RELATED: Mint reveals Civil Rights Act of 1964 coins

For one of the men among the 18 originally charged in the case, it took 41 years to the day before a Mississippi grand jury found him guilty on three counts of murder. Some were convicted before that.

Two identical bills are pending in Congress: one in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced in April 2014, and the other in the U.S. Senate introduced in September 2014. Both call for the striking and presentation collectively of a gold congressional medal for the three men.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner are among the 19 recipients in November of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors, according to a White House news release.

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