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Memories of Queens College
And An American Tragedy


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Last week’s Sunday New York Times (Oct. 6, Metro Section page 40) contained a story headlined, “A Sacrifice in Mississippi Remembered on a New York Mountain.” It stirred memories in me.

The “Mountain” referred to was by “Tupper Lake” in Franklin County in northern New York State, a little less than 100 miles from Canada. It seems the local historian had campaigned successfully to name the mountain “Goodman Mountain,” in honor of Andrew Goodman, a college classmate of mine, who in 1964 lost his life in Mississippi working to register voters during “Freedom Summer.”

Andy’s picture in the Times and the short story of memory and tribute touched me as it almost always does as it has reappeared over the past 38 years. It was a story that had become an integral part of this nation’s civil rights folklore. There was Queens College classmate Paul Simon’s song, “He Was My Brother,” which although prophetically written shortly before Goodman’s death, was modified by Simon as lasting tribute to Andy.

Andrew Goodman

There was the Gene Hackman film “Mississippi Burning;” the Andrew Goodman Foundation endowed by the young fallen civil rights activist’s parents Carolyn and Robert which recently used Queens’ Citibank building to present their “Long Walk To Freedom Youth Activism Award. The Goodman story is almost four decades old and the tributes like the mountain naming comes less frequently, but to those who were a part of the civil rights movement of the 60’s; Andy was a giant — a martyr.

To those of us fortunate enough to know the gentle 20-year old Queens College student, his death will always be part of our consciousness.

I remember going out to lunch with Andy the week of, or the week before, he left for Mississippi. It was a small group of us involved in the civil rights movement at Queens College: CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), Student Help Project (SHP) or Freedom Week (a Queens College student-run week of civil rights consciousness and activities). Seven, maybe eight of us, wanted to give Andy a send off and hear his thoughts as he left for “Freedom Summer” in Mississippi. He knew, and we knew, that registering black voters in the nations most reactionary state was fraught with danger. The Klu Klux Klan seemed to own Mississippi back then and outsiders were not welcome. Firebombing, shooting and hangings were frequently the news of the day and the fate of those who crossed the Klan.

We had a need to be with Andy before he left.

I don’t remember his words or the lunch — although I think it was at Cara Mia, the Italian Restaurant just north of the L.I.E. on Kissena. I think I remember several of the others at the lunch and if they remember, they can find my email address below.

Andy Goodman was 20-years-old when he died on Rock Cut Road on Sunday night, June 21,1964 in Neshoba County. Goodman had arrived in the state early the previous morning after attending a three-day training session in Ohio for volunteers of the Mississippi Summer Project. 

His first full day in Mississippi began with CORE social worker Michael Schwerner — whose brother coincidently was a Queens College admissions counselor — and James Chaney, a local black plasterer’s apprentice and a visit to the burned out remains of Mount Zion Church. They then visited the homes of the four black members of the congregation to learn more about the incident. 

Deputy Cecil Price spotted their CORE wagon and arrested all three, allegedly for suspicion of having been involved in the church arson and put the three men in Neshoba County jail. When Chaney paid the fine and Price released them from jail, it was the beginning of the end of their young lives.

Deputy Price in his car and two cars full of young Klansman followed the CORE wagon. They chased and apprehended the three and traveled with them down a dirt path named Rock Cut Road. The triggerman, Wayne Roberts, shot Schwerner first, then Goodman, and then Chaney was beaten and like the others shot at point blank range. The bodies of the three civil rights workers were taken to a dam site at the old Jolly Farm, placed together in a hollow at the dam site and then covered with tons of dirt.

On Aug. 4, the bodies were discovered. A team of pathologists who later examined the bodies found that Chaney an African American and a native of Meridian, Mississippi, had been beaten so brutally that he was probably dead when Klansman shot him three times. Schwerner and Goodman died from gunshot wounds.

And now there is a mountain in Andrew Goodman’s memory.

And I still can’t make much sense of it all.

Cruising At 20,000 Ft.
& Snoozing Through The Election Season

We’re aboard American Flight 731 to Dallas – Fort Worth. Amanda Feldman, child of Queens, is getting married. Her folks, Linda and Wayne left Glen Oaks where they were raised and married, a lifetime ago. We were in Texas only a year-and-a-half-ago for Amanda’s brother’s wedding – only this time, Lil and I are taking Allison.

We see the Feldman clan quite often considering the distance. They were in for Allison’s Bat Mitzvah in June; Linda’s sister Carol lives around the corner from us; and her folks Margaret and Max are still in the Glen Oaks home in which Linda and Carol were raised. The groom is a product of Staten Island and out of momentary wedding respect I will forgo the expected references to the City’s weak sister. But we saw the gang at the engagement party there and Lil and Allison, at the bridal shower. Yup, we see them a lot.

Regular readers of this space know that I write my column on the weekend, because the workweek schedule does not permit me time to do it justice. Now, on the plane, I hope to do a quickie political look-see at the borough of Queens. Sorry, but notes, internet access and the telephone can’t assist me. You’re stuck with what’s in my head and heart as told by these fingers.

Boring is the best descriptor for this barely existent Queens political season. Reapportionment years are not supposed to be that way. But incumbents will waltz home – often unopposed – in all but three seats. In those three seats, two new Assembly and a vacant newly districted Senate seat. We expect the Democratic candidate to easily win each.

Former Councilman John Sabini will have it easy in the 13th Senate seat drawn for a Latino.

In the 39th AD, Jose Peralta will become the first Latino from Queens in the State legislature and although the Republicans made noises about spending dough on his opponent Charles Gonzales, there is no sign of it in sight.

Barry Grodenchik, after losing his Council race, won the Democratic primary for the new 22nd District drawn for an Asian, narrowly defeating Jimmy Meng and Ethel Chen who remain on the ballot on the Independence and Liberal lines respectively. Grodenchik’s Republican opponent is sending out signals of a well-funded campaign. However, longtime Chinese Republican politico Meilin Tan has failed to file the requisite financial disclosure statements. We’re anxious to see if the State Board of Elections and its law, have any teeth.

As we said before, this district that sent John Liu to the City Council can be expected to elect an Asian to the Assembly before the decade is out. But it will take a single Asian candidate and most likely on the Democratic line. Had the third party lines not gone to Asian candidates, Grodenchik might have not prevailed. His war chest depleted from a very tough primary, he could be outspent and a heavy ethnic turnout could have unpredictably swung this race. But it won’t, this time. Barry better get to work from day one because in two years, his seat, the 22nd AD will be the most hotly contested seat on the planet.

They tell me to watch John Ottulich attempt to unseat Ann Carrozza in the 26th. Even though he is competitively funded and the relatively new mom has not been as active, we expect no surprises there.

Could a big Pataki win affect any of the races?

Straight party line voting is long gone from Queens. The voters readily move back and forth across party lines. In a large area in eastern Queens voting for Dem Liberal Congressman Gary Ackerman, followed by a giant step to the right for Repub Conservative State Senator Frank Padavan and then back left to the Dem for the Assembly vote is the norm rather than the exception.

Yes, we expect Pataki to win big. No he won’t impact any other race. The closest contested race to the top slot is the Comptroller battle between Queens Dem Alan Hevesi and Republican Upstater John Faso. Hevesi coasted through a contested primary and seems to be sitting on big bucks as Faso outplays him on the airwaves. We expect that Alan believes he is so far ahead in name recognition that a media blitz in the closing two weeks is all that he’ll need to win the powerful slot.

As Alan prepares to go to Albany and we fly 30,000 plus feet above, I can’t come up with the name of the last Comptroller from Queens. It was a guy named Cuomo who was the last Statewide elected official from our borough. Remember him? He lost to Pataki eight years ago.

Well, it’s a ho-hum season and all we political junkies can do is to look one year ahead to when a lavish four-to-one public matching fund program will certainly bring candidates to the fray with some bucks to spend. Although incumbents will, for the most part prevail, a number will be tested.

It will also be a time when the guys from Austin Street (Dem County organization) try to make Allan Jennings pay for his lunacy and Hiram Monserrate for his independence or defiance depending on which pew you sit in.

It’s a long way till that election season of 2003 but if you’re looking for contests right now, you better stick to baseball.

A brief post script to a lovely wedding.

It’s Sunday morning and the wonderful occasion is over. In addition to the usual warm and thought provoking feelings that weddings bring, I’m left with a strong and lasting impression not related to the night’s affair.

As my friend Wayne held the mic and thanked all the guests for coming, he went around the room acknowledging each group that traveled across the country.

And one acknowledgment brought the house down. Wayne pointed out a table from Staten Island – the groom’s side – and saluted three New York City firefighters in attendance. It occasioned a standing ovation.

Yes even in the heart of Texas, the soul of New York City is alive, well and celebrated.

America is one. by Dom Nunziato


Michael Schenkler can be reached at:

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