TIME Civil Rights

NYPD Cancels Holiday Parties as Protests Continue

Protesters Stage Nationwide Marches In Wake Of Recent Grand Jury Decisions
NYPD officers stand guard during the National March Against Police Violence, which was organized by National Action Network, at One Police Plaza on December 13, 2014 in New York City. Kena Betancur—Getty Images

Protest leaders are meeting with the Mayor on Friday.

New York City police are canceling or postponing their holiday parties as protests over the death of Eric Garner become almost a nightly occurrence.

DNAinfo New York, a local news source, reports that police precincts don’t want to risk taking officers off the streets as the protests continue across the city two weeks after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in Garner’s death.

At least two thirds of the precincts had canceled their festivities, which the police pay for themselves, according to DNAinfo. Some will be rescheduled for January — if the protests have subsided by then.


TIME Civil Rights

What the International Response to the Civil Rights Movement Tells Us About Ferguson

Education Segregation, USA. pic: circa 1957. Little Rock, Arkansas. National Guardsmen, having admitted white children to a school, barr the way to a black student.
Little Rock, Ark., 1957: National Guardsmen, having admitted white children to a school, bar the way to a black student Paul Popper—Popperfoto / Getty Images

International criticism during the Civil Rights Movement helped bring about new legislation

Images of armed soldiers blocking nine African-American high school students from integrating a public high school in Little Rock, Ark. shocked the world nearly 60 years ago. Organs of Soviet propaganda, determined to disrupt perceptions of a tranquil American democracy, wrote of American police “who abuse human dignity and stoop to the level of animals” in the newspaper Izvestia. In the midst of stiff Cold War competition for hearts and minds around the world, the prospect of controlling international perceptions motivated officials at the highest levels of U.S. government to support new civil rights measures.

The U.S. representative to the United Nations warned President Dwight Eisenhower that the incident had damaged American influence, and the President listened.

“Before Eisenhower sent in the troops, there were mobs around the school for weeks, keeping these high school students from going to school,” says Mary Dudziak, a professor at Emory whose book Cold War Civil Rights argues that international pressures encouraged the federal government to work to improve civil rights, and which tells the above story about Little Rock. “The issue caused people from other countries to wonder whether the U.S. had a commitment to human rights.”

Today, the highly-publicized killings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner have attracted similar international condemnation, and some historians wonder whether concerns about U.S. appearances around the world could once again influence the federal government.

Read More: One Man. One March. One Speech. One Dream.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the sworn enemy of the U.S., had a lot to gain by showing that American democracy wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The opposition of today’s day and age are less influential, but they appear equally eager to highlight American dysfunction. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the attention surrounding Michael Brown to remind his Twitter followers of America’s history on race issues. A tweet from the leader features images of police dogs in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement alongside an image of Michael Brown:

North Korea may have one of the world’s worst human rights records, but that didn’t stop the country from criticizing the U.S. for “wantonly violating the human rights where people are subject to discrimination and humiliation due to their races.”

It’s not surprising that North Korea and Iran would criticize the U.S., but the reprimanding hasn’t been limited to opponents. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said he is unsure whether the decision not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown “conforms with international human rights law.”

“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

Criticism from the U.N. is significant, but the international body’s desires, much less those of North Korea or Iran, have never driven U.S. policy — and the fact is, while there are many links between the Cold War era and today, times have changed. Thus far, the President has walked a fine line in his response. He proposed some measures, including encouraging police to wear body cameras, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be proposing any game-changing legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s not surprising that Obama has hesitated to involve the federal government in what is typically a local or state issue. The international mandate simply isn’t as strong as it was during the Cold War. There’s no equivalent to the Soviet Union offering a credible alternative to America’s system of governance.

But that may not be the case forever: historians and political scientists say that a growing movement against police brutality has the potential to increase international pressure and, perhaps, force change.

“I’m sure the Obama administration and the State Department are concerned about [international perceptions],” says Rick Valelly, a political science professor at Swarthmore. “Right now it’s embarrassing, but I don’t think it’s internationally consequential.”

Movements to end police brutality don’t yet have the “same kind of legs” that the Civil Rights Movement had, Valelly says. This year’s demonstrations have been attention-grabbing — and the “Justice for All” March planned for Washington, D.C, this Saturday is certain to make headlines — but it may take many more years of sustained protest before the movement would be noticed internationally on a much larger scale, as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was. For now, experts in the field still remain optimistic about the benefits of international attention, relatively minor though it may be.

“Public diplomacy begins with listening,” says Nick Cull, a professor at the University of Southern California, “and this would be a really good time to listen.”

TIME Civil Rights

Oakland Police Department Site Down in Apparent Hack

Protests Continue In Oakland Over Grand Jury Decisions
A protester confronts a UC Berkeley police officer during a demonstration over recent grand jury decisions in police-involved deaths on December 10, 2014 in Berkeley, California. Protesters have taken to the streets of Berkeley for a fifth straight night after a Staten Island, New York grand jury declined December 3 to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Hundreds of protesters have gathered nightly since Saturday.

The Oakland Police Department remained down on Thursday following an apparent cyberattack as protests continued over the treatment of minorities by police.

About 50 protesters blocked the entrances of the city’s courthouse on Wednesday night in a relatively quiet demonstration. A night earlier, authorities fired rubber bullets and arrested at least 19 people as crowds swarmed city streets for the fourth straight night.

Websites for the city, the Fire Department and the Police Department were all disabled beginning on Tuesday, according to the LA Times, though by Thursday only the police site remained down. The hacker collective Anonymous appeared to take responsibility for the cyberattacks in a tweet.

Hundreds of protesters have gathered at Berkeley nightly this week to protest in the wake of grand jury decisions in New York and Missouri not to indict white police officers over the deaths of unarmed black men.

[LA Times]

TIME Opinion

History’s Echoes in the Policing that Made Eric Garner Say ‘Enough’

Protests Continue Across Country In Wake Of NY Grand Jury Verdict In Chokehold Death Case
In Oakland, Calif., Niels Smith holds a sign reading "I can't breathe" on the second night of demonstrations following a Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, on Dec. 4, 2014. Elijah Nouvelage—Getty Images

"Racism can work through laws, even seemingly good laws"

Ever since the grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, protests across the country have rallied around Garner’s final words, repeated multiple times as he was choked and restrained: “I can’t breathe.”

But we should also pay attention to Garner’s first words in the video that recorded his death: “Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it.” Those words point us to the past—not only to Garner’s past encounters with the police, but also to the nation’s long history of using the law to “mess with” black citizens.

That history includes the years following the American Civil War. After their defeat, citizens of the former Confederacy could no longer buy or sell black people. Still, in 1865 and 1866, Southern state legislatures quickly passed a series of “Black Codes” that hampered attempts by newly freed people to escape the control of former masters.

These postwar Black Codes redefined customary local privileges, such as hunting wild hogs, as major crimes. Local white police forces enforced criminal laws selectively, using ostensibly color-blind laws to harass and incarcerate the newly freed. Of the nearly three hundred formerly enslaved people sent to the state penitentiary in Texas between 1865 and February 1867, the vast majority were charged with theft, including George Tucker, accused of stealing twenty cents in Montgomery County. Despite his protests of innocence, Tucker was sentenced to two years in prison, as was Tom Gravys of Harris County, accused of stealing half a plug of tobacco.

Even tax codes became weapons in white Southerners’ efforts to control black citizens. Black Southerners briefly thwarted those efforts between 1867 and 1876, when Congressional Reconstruction enabled formerly enslaved people and their allies to seize control of Southern legislatures. Republican governments, elected by black voters, overturned Black Codes and strengthened public services like education. To pay for increased public spending, Republican lawmakers overhauled the antebellum Southern tax system, too, shifting the burden of financing the state to its wealthiest instead of its poorest citizens.

Yet in the mid-1870s, so-called “Redeemer” Democrats, who campaigned on white supremacist platforms, began to wrest control of Southern legislatures away from Republicans, placing the power of the law back in the hands of reactionary whites. Redeemers quickly reinstituted Black Codes, using them not only to imprison but to disenfranchise black voters. According to a 2009 article by historian Pippa Holloway, between 1874 and 1882 every southern state but one passed constitutional amendments that disenfranchised petty thieves and turned misdemeanor crimes like stealing chickens into felony offenses.

Those Democrats also made taxes more regressive, hoping to force fine-harried workers to accept any wages white employers were willing to offer. By increasing licensing fees and excise taxes that targeted black citizens, they shifted tax burdens away from white landowners and rolled back public spending on things that mattered most to the people they disenfranchised. The result, as historian Eric Foner once wrote, was that poor black laborers “bore the heaviest burden of taxation and received the fewest public services.”

For students of this history, it is difficult not to hear echoes of such stories today. Two black men lie dead after encounters with the police that reportedly began because of alleged offenses like petty theft and sales of loose cigarettes designed to evade a regressive tax. Police had already arrested Eric Garner dozens of times on a string of misdemeanor charges, all of which he planned to contest in court.

Meanwhile, last year in Ferguson, Mo., the population of the city was lower than the number of warrants, many of them for offenses like minor traffic infractions or forgetting to sign up for garbage collection. And nationally, data indicates that black citizens are more likely than whites to be arrested, patrolled, stopped, and killed by police officers, even as crime rates have declined.

Such examples of overpolicing black citizens may well appear to future historians much like the application of the Black Codes look to historians of Reconstruction today, as clear examples of one group of Americans using power to hold another group down. To prove them wrong, we the living will have to confront our own history, stretching back to the Civil War and beyond, more honestly than most of us have done in the past.

Indeed, our collective lack of historical perspective shows even when Americans from different sides of the political spectrum agree that Garner’s homicide was unjust. Earlier this week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky blamed high cigarette taxes for Garner’s death. While Paul has commented before on the role of racism in our criminal justice system, his and others’ focus on “big government” betrays a reluctance to grapple with our history. We cannot fix our problems without acknowledging how long “broken windows” policing has targeted black communities, or how often public spending has been vital to protecting their rights as citizens.

On the other hand, without endorsing Paul’s specific analysis or policy proposals, we should also be reluctant to declare, as some did on social media, that “it is harder to get farther from the point than arguing the cause of Eric Garner’s death was cigarette taxes.” History warns against assuming that any part of our society is necessarily far from the reach of racism. Our history reminds us that racism can work through laws, even seemingly good laws, just as it can through lynch mobs. Black citizens have been held down with physical force, but also with fines, fees and felony sentences that took away the political power to change those very things.

In view of that past, there is little, if anything, about our country and our legal system that we should not be subjecting to a critical eye today. None of our institutions stand outside of our history, not our grand juries, not our police and not even our excise tax laws. And every chapter of that history contains evidence of black Americans being harassed by both legal and extralegal means.

The nation has found countless ways to “mess with” black lives for generations, and our past ways are not dead. They are not even past. That is why Eric Garner started by saying “I’m tired,” and why so many other Americans are now shouting “I can’t breathe.”

W. Caleb McDaniel is assistant professor of history at Rice University and the author of The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery: Garrisonian Abolitionists and Transatlantic Reform, which won the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians.

TIME Civil Rights

Did a Mediocre Letter of Recommendation for Martin Luther King, Jr. Change the Course of History?

Dr. King Addresses Meeting
American Civil Rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968) addresses a protest meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, 1957 Robert W. Kelley—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

"A few years ago I found some correspondence that I thought might have profoundly altered the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. thereby redirecting the course of American and world history"

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Can a letter change the world? A few years ago I found some correspondence that I thought might have profoundly altered the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. , thereby redirecting the course of American and world history. And what made it more interesting is that King almost certainly was unaware of what happened. I was doing some research into the life of Howard Thurman, the great mid-20th century African American religious thinker. Thurman has never been as well-known as he should be, and if he is remembered among the general public, it is as an inspiration to Martin Luther King, Jr., which is accurate enough, but somewhat ironic given the contents of the exchange in question.

Here’s the situation. In the fall of 1953 Howard Thurman became a professor and the dean of chapel at Boston University (the first black to become dean of chapel at a mainstream university). Martin Luther King, Jr. was a student at Boston University, and by the fall of 1953 he had finished his course work for his Ph.D., so he was never Thurman’s student, though the two men knew each other (Thurman had known King since his infancy) and had some, though fairly limited contact during their time together during Thurman’s first year in Boston.

So on 1 December, 1954, just about sixty years ago, Thurman receives a letter from an old friend and college chum from Morehouse College, A.W. Dent, president of Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans. Dent was looking for a new dean of chapel at Dillard, and wanted to feel out Thurman about a potential candidate. “The other day I heard some good things about M. L. King, Jr., whose father is at Ebenezer at Atlanta. I understand that King after finishing Morehouse, went to Boston University where he has about completed his work for the doctorate. Do you know anything about his record, and do you think him to be the type of person into whom I should take a good look?”

Thurman replied two weeks later, as honestly as he could: “With reference to M. L. King, Jr., I know him casually. He has made a good record here in the university and I understand that he is a good preacher. I do not know anything about his experience with students. But, of course, a man has to start some time. Sue [Sue Bailey Thurman, Thurman’s wife] has had some conversations with King and is very much impressed with him.” But then Thurman goes on to suggest another candidate, another African American Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, might be a better fit for the dean of chapel position. This man would have a significant career as a preacher, theologian and dean of chapel, but he was not, of course, in subsequent renown, another Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, surely, I concluded, when I first read this exchange of letters, this changed the course of history. Dent’s original letter was sent exactly one year to the day before, on 1 December, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, setting into motion a chain of events that would result in King being selected as head of the Montgomery Improvement Association. It was this position that catapulted him within a matter of months to national leadership in the civil rights movement, and from thence on a path that made him, within a few short years, arguably, the most famous American of his generation. By the time he would have turned 60, the annual commemoration of his birthday was a national holiday. But surely all of this required King being in the right place, Montgomery, Alabama, at the right time, early December 1955, for him to discover his true vocation, which was not as an academic theologian, but a civil rights leader. What if Thurman had been effusive in his praise of King, and didn’t recommend an alternative candidate? How would history be different, if Thurman had strongly praised King on 1 December 1955?

The short answer is that the letter didn’t really change much. President Dent had been somewhat misinformed. While King had not yet finished his dissertation, he had left Boston in the fall of 1954, having been hired as the new minister at Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. And despite Thurman’s guarded enthusiasm, King, along with Thurman’s other candidate, did interview for the position at Dillard, and neither man was hired. It seems unlikely that King would have been tempted to leave a few months into his prestigious position at Dexter Avenue. In any event, he was not in need of a job.

There are two questions this little episode poses. First, why didn’t Thurman provide a more glowing recommendation? Was Thurman obtuse, or was King simply not that impressive? We don’t know, but Thurman clearly knew the other candidate better than King. He had been his student, and was impressed with his intellect and character. Perhaps he felt, as he implied in his response to Dent, that King, at 25, was a bit too young to become dean of chapel, and needed a deeper resume. King did not, as Thurman points out, have any experience with college students. Thurman’s favored candidate was a decade older. If Thurman did not take the full measure of the young King, perhaps it was because King still had some growing up to do. Reading the biographies of King there was relatively little indication, in December 1954, of the extraordinary career he would soon enjoy. Surely King’s career was a case of having greatness thrust upon him, and thereby realizing his destiny. For Thurman, in December 1954, King was simply one of many promising Ph.D. candidates. The two men would subsequently grow closer.

But the bigger question is whether history have been different if Martin Luther King Jr. had been in New Orleans rather than Montgomery in December 1955? I think it is reasonable to assume that, like most of the great historical accomplishments, it would have unfolded more or less along the same trajectory, with him or without him; India would have achieved its independence without Gandhi, South Africa its freedom without Mandela, and even without Einstein, someone would have discovered the principles of relativity. (Though this doesn’t apply to artistic achievements, obviously; no Shakespeare, no Hamlet.)

For some this is reason enough to argue that King’s role in the history of the civil rights movement has been exaggerated. There have been many books, gently or not so gently debunking the thesis of his centrality, arguing the “real history” of the civil rights movement, its “grass roots” essence lies elsewhere. And at the same time, the scholarship on King and his writings, parsing every word and utterance, is also flourishing. For me, these different approaches to King are ultimately complementary; the question of what the civil rights movement would have been, absent King, is ultimately a question of historical metaphysics, since what happened, happened. King’s role, neither exaggerated or minimized, needs to be studied with as much precision, and without piety, as is possible.

The ultimate significance of the letters between Thurman and Dent is the mystery of the interaction between the workings of broad historical processes and the course of an individual life. Lives can only be read retrospectively, and no one in December, 1954, least of all King himself, could have guessed what the next decade and a half would bring. When Howard Thurman, in 1979, near the end of his life, published his autobiography, he concluded it with the following words: “No one shares the secret of a life, no one enters the heart of its mystery. . . . Always we are on the outside of our story, always we are beggars who seek entrance to the kingdom of our dwelling place.”

And no one shares the secret of how a life interacts with the great social forces that surround it, and how a life is shaped and shapes those social realities. This is the great mystery of the civil rights movement, how ordinary people, from all walks of life, found themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and rose to the occasion. And in this way, perhaps, King was no different from thousands, from millions of others.

Peter Eisenstadt is the senior associate editor at the Howard Thurman Papers Project at Boston University.

TIME Civil Rights

Rosa Parks ‘Transformed a Nation’ on This Day

Rosa Parks Gets Fingerprinted
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Ala., in 1956 Underwood Archives / Getty Images

It was Dec. 1, 1955, that Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus

On this day nearly six decades ago, Rosa Parks got on that fateful bus.

As TIME would recount in including Dec. 1, 1955, in its list of days that changed the world, she was on her way to a meeting at her local N.A.A.C.P. about protesting segregation laws when it happened: “she found a seat in the first row of the “colored” section in the back. But after a few stops, the driver ordered her to get up so a white passenger could sit down. Parks refused, and the police were called to take her to jail.” Her ordeal would soon inspire a citywide boycott and a ruling that such segregation was illegal.

When Parks died in 2005, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. wrote an appreciation of her life. As Jackson pointed out, the idea that she didn’t move just because she was tired is a myth:

With quiet courage and nonnegotiable dignity, Rosa Parks was an activist and a freedom fighter who transformed a nation and confirmed a notion that ordinary people can have an extraordinary effect on the world. In her declining health, I would often visit Mrs. Parks, and once asked her the most basic question: Why did you do it? She said the inspiration for her Dignity Day in 1955 occurred three months prior, when African-American Emmett Till’s murdered and disfigured body was publicly displayed for the world to see. “When I thought about Emmett Till,” she told me, “I could not go to the back of the bus.” Her feet never ached.

Read the rest of Jackson’s remembrance of Parks, here in the TIME Vault

TIME United Nations

U.N. Panel Sharply Criticizes Police Brutality in U.S.

Atlanta Police in riot gear form a line on Williams Streets as protesters make their way down it in Atlanta, Ga. on Nov. 25, 2014, John Amis—AP

Michael Brown's parents testified before the committee

A United Nations panel criticized the United States for police brutality, military interrogations and excessive use of force by law enforcement in a report released Friday.

“There are numerous areas in which certain things should be changed for the United States to comply fully with the convention,” said Alessio Bruni, a member of the United Nations Committee Against Torture, referring to U.N. agreements on torture.

The panel released their report just days after violence erupted in Ferguson, Mo., following the announcement of a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

While the latest U.N. report did not mention Ferguson explicitly, Brown’s parents testified before the committee in Geneva earlier this month. And the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights who oversees the committee on torture, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, raised concerns over “institutionalized discrimination in the U.S.” and added that he was unsure about whether the Ferguson grand jury’s decision complies with international human rights law.

“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” the commissioner said in a statement.

TIME Civil Rights

These Slain Civil Rights Workers Are Getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Civil Rights Workers Murdered
From left, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman Underwood Archives / Getty Images

What happened to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner?

On Monday, President Obama will award 19 people with the highest honor possible for an American civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Though the majority of the honorees, like Tom Brokaw and Stephen Sondheim, are famous and living, one of the items on the list of recipients stands out: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

Not only is theirs the only item on the list honoring a group rather than an individual, but their names may also be unfamiliar to most people, as well as the achievement, half a century ago, for which the three men are being honored — one that resulted in their deaths.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were part of the “Freedom Summer” voter-registration drive that took place in Mississippi in 1964; they were killed that June. Their deaths, in the words of the White House, “shocked the nation and their efforts helped to inspire many of the landmark civil rights advancements that followed.”

Here’s what happened to them:

As TIME reported in its issue of July 3, 1964, Chaney and Schwerner were among the staffers at an “indoctrination course” in Ohio at which hundreds of Northern college students prepared to go to Mississippi to register voters. Schwerner, then 24, was a social worker from New York who had spent the previous two years, along with his wife Rita, working for civil rights with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Chaney was a high-school drop-out who had joined CORE and volunteered to be an instructor at the orientation for voter registration. Goodman was one of their students, a junior at Queens College who was relatively new to the civil-rights movement. They left the orientation, along with five other people, on June 20 and drove to Mississippi.

Freedom Summer map
From the July 3, 1964, issue of TIME

On the morning of June 21, they visited the office of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO)—an advocacy group that was one of the organizers of the drive—in Meridian, Miss., before driving to see the site of a recently burned-down church in the area. They met with one of the church’s lay leaders, who described to them what had happened during the fire, and then set off to return to Meridian. Their car was stopped for speeding around 5:00 p.m. near Philadelphia, Miss. They were booked at the county jail, fined and told to leave.

Late that night, the police deputy escorted them to the edge of town. But they never returned to Meridian. COFO alerted the FBI and the highway patrol. Within three days, their car was found — gutted and stripped — and a full-scale search was underway (see map). It was slow going, according to TIME:

At week’s end, there was still no sign of the missing men. Some people shared the suspicion voiced by Neshoba County Sheriff L. A. Rainey: “They’re just hiding and trying to cause a lot of bad publicity for this part of the state.” But with each passing day, the possibility of a hoax seemed less and less likely. Whatever their fate, whether dead or alive, the case of the three young civil rights workers would reverberate around the U.S. for the rest of this summer and beyond.

Their bodies were found more than a month later. All three had been shot.

Three years later, the local Sheriff and his deputy were indicted by a federal grand jury on civil rights charges. Though the deaths of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were considered, no murder charges could be bought. (Those would have had to have come from Mississippi, not the federal government.) When the related trial began that October, more than a dozen Mississippians faced charges.

During the trial, eyewitness accounts by paid informers revealed what had happened to the three men. As TIME reported:

Carlton Wallace Miller, 43, a Meridian police sergeant who received $2,400 from the FBI over a two-year period, testified that the Meridian chapter of the White Knights of the Klan had marked Schwerner for “elimination—the term for murdering someone.” To lure Schwerner from Meridian, where he and his wife Rita were operating a Negro community center, said Miller, Klansmen burned down the Mount Zion (Negro) Church at Longdale, outside Philadelphia. Five days later, Schwerner and two companions, Goodman, a white man, and Chancy, a Negro, drove 50 miles to Longdale to inspect the ruins of the church.

Near Philadelphia, the three men were arrested on a speeding charge by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, 29. Soon, said James E. Jordan, 41, who received $8,000 from the FBI and has been living safely in Georgia and Florida since turning informer nearly three years ago, the word went swiftly around Meridian that there were some “civil rights workers locked up and they need their rear ends torn up.”

Jordan and seven others, he said, armed themselves and drove to Philadelphia. There they parked by the courthouse where Ethel Glen (“Hop”) Barnett, 45, current Democratic nominee for sheriff of Neshoba County and one of the defendants, told them to wait. Two uniformed men in a city police car informed them that the prospective victims had been released. Later they were told by men in a highway patrol car that the victims would be stopped somewhere down the highway by Deputy Sheriff Price, who, along with Neshoba Sheriff Lawrence Rainey, is now on trial.

…They were driven into a deserted area, and Jordan got out to stand guard. “The cars then went on up the road,” testified Jordan. “I heard doors slam and loud talk. Then I heard several shots.”

Seven of the defendants in that trial were found guilty of conspiracy. In 2005, a former Klansman became the first person to face actual murder charges related to the case; he was convicted and sentenced, aged 80, to 60 years in jail.

President Obama mentioned each by name in his 2013 speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s March on Washington. “To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years,” the President said. “Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.”

Read TIME’s original 1964 report on the search for the missing men in the TIME Vault: The Grim Roster


Cop in Ferguson Shooting Gets Married

Darren Wilson
Officer Darren Wilson, seen in a video provided by the City of Ferguson, attends a city council meeting in Ferguson, Mo. City of Ferguson/AP

The white police officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager sparked violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., this year quietly married a fellow officer in October, according to a new report.

Darren Wilson has been on paid leave from the Ferguson Police Department since fatally shooting Michael Brown in August. He has been laying low while he awaits a grand jury’s decision on whether to indict him.

Public records obtained by the New York Times show Wilson married Barbara Spradling on Oct. 24. The marriage license was issued in Clayton, Mo., outside St. Louis. This is a second marriage for both Wilson and Spradling, who own a home together.


TIME photography

The Best of LIFE: 37 Years in Pictures

A selection of photos from LIFE magazine's storied archives: a photo a year from four decades of unparalleled excellence

Over several decades spanning the heart of the 20th century, one American magazine ― calling itself, plainly and boldly, LIFE ― published many of the most memorable photographs ever made. Driven by the certainty that the art of photojournalism could tell stories and move people in ways that traditional reporting simply could not, LIFE pursued a grand vision, articulated by the magazine’s co-founder, Henry Luce, that not only acknowledged the primacy of the picture, but enshrined it.

“To see life,” Luce wrote in a now-famous 1936 mission statement, delineating both his new venture’s workmanlike method and its lofty aims. “To see the world; to eyewitness great events . . . to see and be amazed.”

The roster of talent associated with Luce’s audacious publishing gamble is, in a word, staggering: W. Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Carl Mydans, Andreas Feininger, John Loengard, Gordon Parks, John Dominis, Hansel Mieth, Grey Villet, David Douglas Duncan, Bill Ray, Paul Schutzer, Ralph Morse, Michael Rougier, Eliot Elisofon, Nina Leen, Larry Burrows, Gjon Mili and dozens of other groundbreaking photojournalists not only shot for LIFE, but were on staff at the magazine.

“In the course of a week,” Luce noted in 1936, “the U.S. citizen sees many pictures. He may see travel pictures in travel magazines, art pictures in art digests, cinema pictures in cinemagazines, scientific pictures in scientific journals. But nowhere can he see the cream of all the world’s pictures brought together for him to enjoy and study in one sitting.”

The cream of all the world’s pictures. A nervy assertion ― but an assertion repeatedly affirmed by LIFE’s tireless, innovative photographers and the work they produced, issue by issue, week after week, year upon year. World war and peaceful revolutions; Hollywood icons and history-shaping villains; the Space Race and civil rights; Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea published ― in its entirety ― in one issue, and a breathless cover story on a now-long-forgotten Hollywood ingénue in the next: however momentous the event, however legendary, notorious or simply of-the-moment the person, LIFE was there.

Today, those breathtaking pictures live here, on LIFE.com. Resurrected through trailblazing photo essays, lighthearted features, and previously unpublished photographs of the century’s leading figures and most pivotal, meaningful moments, Henry Luce’s vision (to see life, to eyewitness great events, to see and be amazed) remains as relevant and thrilling today as it was 75 years ago.

This gallery ― featuring one picture a year from 1936, when the magazine premiered, to 1972, when LIFE ceased publishing as a weekly ― serves as an introduction to, and a celebration of, the treasures of a storied archive: a tightly focused glimpse into the breadth and excellence of one publication’s iconic photography.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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