The files include files, Federal Bureau of Investigation memoranda, research notes, federal informant reports, and testimony. There are also photographs of the exhumation of the bodies of the victims and subsequent autopsies, as well as aerial photographs of the burial site, according to an announcement from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The collection is stored in three catalog files: the 2870 series houses the attorney general’s research files, the 2902 series houses the FBI memos, and the 2903 series houses the photographs.
The three Freedom Summer workers, all in their 20s, were investigating a black church fire near Philadelphia, Mississippi, when they went missing in June 1964.
A Philadelphia deputy sheriff arrested them on a trafficking charge, then released them after alerting a crowd. The then governor of Mississippi claimed their disappearance was a hoax, and segregationist Senator Jim Eastland told President Lyndon Johnson it was a “publicity stunt” before their bodies were killed. are unearthed, found weeks later in an earthen dam.
Nineteen men were indicted on federal charges in the 1967 case. Seven were found guilty of violating the civil rights of the victims. None have served more than six years.
In 2004, the Mississippi attorney general’s office reopened the investigation. This led to the June 2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, a Ku Klux Klan leader and Baptist minister of the 1960s, for manslaughter.
During his state trial in 2005, witnesses said that on June 21, 1964, Killen traveled to Meridian to collect cars full of klan men to ambush Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, saying some klan members to bring plastic or rubber gloves. Witnesses said Killen then went to a Philadelphia funeral home as an alibi during the fatal attack.
Killen died in prison in 2018. Then-Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood officially closed the investigation in 2016.