On June 21, 1964 three young men were killed in Mississippi. This case created a frenzy across the United States as: Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were civil rights activists. All three were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan because they were fighting for equal rights. In the 1988 crime thriller Mississippi Burning, we follow the events that took place after they were killed as the FBI investigates.
When three young civil rights workers go missing FBI agents Rupert Anderson and Alan Ward are sent to investigate. Both investigators are from different sides of the tracks, Anderson grew up in the south and understands the ways of the people in Mississippi. While Alan, who is from the north, does not fully comprehend the ways of the south and decides to go by the book. Right from the start it is evident that their presence is unwanted in town. After interviewing some people who they believe could be witnesses, they keep finding dead ends due to fear of retaliation by the local law enforcement, who’s are well known members of the KKK. In the area many of the towns people are shown to believe it being a big hoax in order to gain media attention for the Civil Rights Movement. In the meantime, the KKK ups their intimidation by attacking the local neighborhood that is predominantly African-American. However, Anderson has managed to charm the wife of a local deputy who was involved in the murders. She reveals to him the location of the bodies. She is shown to have differing views from her husbands hateful activities. Things go badly when the deputy beats up his wife due to her revealing the information about the location of the bodies. With Anderson viewing the bruises done to her by her husband, he and Ward strike up a deal on how they are going to handle the situation from then on. Anderson and Ward stage a meeting for the local KKK members to weed out the weak ones. They find one, pick him up, and drive him around town in order to intimidate him for information. After dropping him off, the go further and “attack” him at home. The informant gives up all the information on the murderers. All of the men involved are arrested and sent to trial. Even though Ward and Anderson were able to close the case, it was not without the cost of lives being intimidated.
When Mississippi Burning came out in 1988, it was embroiled in controversy for how the characters were portrayed. However, this fictionalized version of the 1964 murders of the: Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner is able to capture what many people gave for the all people to be treated equal in the United States of America. On June 21, 1964, these three brave men may have lost their lives, but their memory lives on for all time.