Andrew Goodman Biography

Social Reformer (1943–1964)
Andrew Goodman was one of the three civil rights workers slain in Mississippi in June 1964.


Born in 1943 in New York City, Andrew Goodman became involved in social and political activism at an early age. He was still in high school when he participated in the 1958 Youth March for Integrated Schools. As a student at Queens College, Goodman joined the March on Washington in 1963 and protested at the 1964 World's Fair. He volunteered for a special program to help African Americans in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. That June, Goodman attended a training session for the program in Ohio. There he met Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. The three civil rights workers traveled to Mississippi together where they were later killed by members of the Klu Klux Klan.

Early Life

Born on November 23, 1943, in New York City, Andrew Goodman was a civil rights worker during the 1960s. He was one of the college students to volunteered to travel to the south in the summer of 1964 to participate in civil rights actions and programs. He, unfortunately, did not live long enough to see the impact of this Freedom Summer initiative. He, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were killed in Mississippi in June 1964 by members of the Klu Klux Klan.

Known as "Andy," Goodman grew up on New York City's Upper East Side with his parents, Robert and Carolyn and brothers Jonathan and David. He attended the Walden School. As a teenager, he became involved in the fight for racial equality. Goodman participated in the 1958 Youth March for Integrated Schools in Washington, D.C. and a 1960 protest at a New York Woolworth's.

Civil Rights Worker

In 1962, Goodman enrolled at Queens College. He explored his interest in theater there, appearing in a college production of Faust. Over time, however, Goodman became more focused on social activism. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington and protested outside the 1964 World's Fair being held not far from his college campus.

In the spring of 1964, Goodman applied for a special summer program in Mississippi. The initiative was designed to bring hundreds of volunteers into the state to help African Americans register to vote and to provide them with educational opportunities. Goodman was selected for the program and went to Ohio in June for volunteer training. While at the Ohio program, he met Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, both of whom worked for the Congress for Racial Equality. Schwerner and Chaney had to leave the event early to investigate an attack on a Mississippi church that had agreed to work with CORE. Goodman decided to join them.

Death and Legacy

Goodman wrote a postcard home to his parents from Meridian, Mississippi. According to, he described the place as "a wonderful town" and "our reception was very good" from the local community. This proved to be his last message home. Goodman was with Schwerner and Chaney when they were pulled over by the police in Neshoba County, allegedly for speeding, on June 21, 1964. The trio was held in the county jail until late that night. They were last seen getting into their car and driving away.

The disappearance of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner made headlines. A lot of this attention centered on the fact that two white men, Goodman and Schwerner, had gone missing. Local authorities, many of whom were segregationists and opposed to CORE's actions in the area, balked at searching for the missing men. President Lyndon Johnson then brought the Federal Bureau of Investigation in to work the case. Two days after their disappearance, their car was discovered. The vehicle had been burned and there was no trace of the missing civil rights workers.

That August, the bodies of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner were discovered. The three men had been fatally shot. When the local law enforcement did little on these murders, the federal government brought charges of civil rights violations against many of those involved in the killings. Eighteen men were charged in 1965 for their roles in the case, but only seven men were ever convicted. The FBI investigation and legal proceedings brought to light the conspiracy that cost Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner their lives. Members of the Neshoba County law enforcement tipped off the Klu Klux Klan regarding these men. Two carloads of Klan members pursued Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner and caught up with them on local roadway. The trio were then killed and later their bodies were hidden.

In 1988, the movie Mississippi Burning, a film based on the tragedy, was released, creating a new wave of interest in the case. Later local reporter Jerry Mitchell helped uncover new evidence in the case, leading to the first murder prosecution for the deaths of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner. In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison for these killings. Killen had been the mastermind behind the murder plot, but he had been acquitted in the original civil rights case against him because one of the jurors refused to convict a minister.

Goodman has served an inspiration to generations of social and political activists. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014. Goodman's activism also continues today through the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which is run by his brother David. According to its website, the foundation's mission is to empower "the next generation to initiative and sustain creative and effective social action" and to "enable leaders and their communities to flourish by operating and investing in programs that advance civic engagement and intergenerational coalitions."

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!