This article was originally published by NPR CodeSwitch.
This summer we commemorate the Freedom Summer participants who faced death — and in some cases were murdered — for trying to transform the racial landscape of America. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the bodies belonging to James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, three civil rights workers who were brutally killed while trying to register blacks to vote in Mississippi. Their disappearance had drawn the national news media and federal investigators to Neshoba County, Miss.
That lethal terror was not reserved for civil rights activists alone: Groups like the Ku Klux Klan exacted violence against black people who they thought were acting above their station. But those stories rarely captured much attention outside of the communities in which they happened. The shooting of Richard Joe Butler was one such case that was largely forgotten to history, even as its ramifications continue to haunt the people involved.