Neshoba County, Miss. Fifty years ago this month, one of the most important events in Mississippi history occurred in Neshoba County. It's this event that brought hundreds to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church for a special memorial service. The church is the exact site where civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney came to investigate a fire and beatings of church members. It was upon their return trip to Meridian, that the three were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan for helping blacks register to vote in the summer of 1964.
"James Chaney, Andy Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner, these three young man, these three young brothers, these three young citizens, they didn't die in Vietnam," said guest speaker, Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis. "They didn't die in the Middle East. They didn't die in Africa or Central and South America. They died right here in our own country."
The memorial service was more than just remembering the lives of those three young men who were slain, but of the countless others who paved the way for Blacks to have the same freedom and rights as everyone.
"We are one house, we all live in the same house," said Lewis. "That's not just the American house, but the world house. We must look out for each other and care for each other. We are brothers and sisters."
Family members from each of the slain civil rights activists were present during the service along with many other notable figures during that time. They say we've come a long way since that fateful day 50 years ago, but with each step we take together, we build a bridge of hope for others.
"Where is a place of hope? I've always said it is in the American South. I believe that," said Lewis.