As anyone who sifts through the neshoba murders posts on this blog will know, the emphasis here at Hungry Blues is not so much Edgar Ray Killen but the big picture, of which Killen is only a small part. For excellent reading with good historical background and a broad understanding of the issues that are involved in this case, read Susan's two part series, based on her forthcoming book, Where Rebels Roost: Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited. (Available for order by next mid week; go here to sign up for email notification with book ordering information.)
Taped conversations released in 1997 show that on June 23 President Johnson, dealing with the disappearance of the young civil rights workers, was angry over receiving conflicting information on the telephone from Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Senator James Eastland.From News Update: Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited (Part 2):
Kennedy had advised Johnson to meet with the student workers' parents. He also suggested Johnson make a statement expressing his ''personal concern for them and for their families.''
Less than an hour later, Eastland told Johnson he believed the whole incident was a hoax. ''I believe it's a publicity stunt,'' Eastland said. ''I don't think there's a damn thing to it. There's not a Ku Klux Klan in that area…. There's no organized white men in that area,'' Eastland said. ''Who could possibly harm them?''
Johnson asked Eastland whether the senator thought he should expand on an earlier statement on the investigation, as advised by Kennedy, and Eastland answered "no."
The name "Goodman" must have attracted the senator’s interest, since Goodman had family ties to Pacifica Broadcasting, a progressive, alternative broadcasting network founded in 1949 by pacifists. Goodman’s father, Robert, was President of the Pacifica Foundation. Only a year prior to Andrew Goodman’s death, The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), headed by Senator Eastland, completed a three-year investigation of Pacifica’s programming, looking for "subversion."
In 1962, Pacifica station WBAI was the first station to publicly broadcast former FBI agent Jack Levine's exposé of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. The program was followed by threats of arrests and bombings, as well as pressure from the FBI, the Justice Department, and the FCC. Also that year, Pacifica trained volunteers to travel into the South for coverage of the awakening Civil Rights Movement. The station also took a strong anti-Vietnam war stance, helping to prompt the investigations.
Sovereignty Commission documents show that Eastland knew the names and backgrounds of all volunteer workers in advance of their arrival, including Goodman, since the senator requested this information from the Sovereignty Commission well before the opening of Freedom Summer.
Thirty-five shootings, thirty bombings, thirty-five church burnings, eighty beatings, and at least six racially motivated murders took place in Mississippi during the first eight months of 1964. Fourteen died in civil rights-related killings. This violence constituted a "deliberate pattern of Klan terror," according to the FBI.
By the following spring, Sovereignty Commission director Johnston was definitely looking for a direct link between Andrew Goodman and "communists." On February 26, 1965, he wrote a letter to newly elected Congressman Prentiss Walker, requesting that he "ask the HUAC for any information about the Pacifica Foundation of New York…. We have reason to believe this foundation also is subversive."
Walker, whose district included Philadelphia, Mississippi wrote back to Johnston that he had been in contact with Congressman John Ashbrook, HUAC chair, who offered a "thorough search … to obtain any information on the people and organizations mentioned."
Included on Walker’s list he sent to the Sovereignty Commission was Robert Goodman (the same name as Andrew’s father) but the HUAC committee’s director reported he could find no records of any testimony by Goodman.
Johnston also mailed to Eastland a list of COFO workers "in the Mississippi Summer Project as of August 1964," explaining he had obtained this list through "one of our pipelines" and that it was possible "some of these names are in the files of the Senate Internal Security Committee or the House Un-American Activities Committee," referring, of course, to Goodman.