of Queens College
And An American Tragedy
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
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.
“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.”
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
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.
those of us fortunate enough to know the gentle 20-year old Queens College
student, his death will always be part of our consciousness.
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.
had a need to be with Andy before he left.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
now there is a mountain in Andrew Goodman’s memory.
I still can’t make much sense of it all.
At 20,000 Ft.
& Snoozing Through The Election Season
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.
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.
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
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.
Councilman John Sabini will have it easy in the 13th Senate seat drawn for
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.
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.
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.
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.
a big Pataki win affect any of the races?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
a long way till that election season of 2003 but if you’re looking for
contests right now, you better stick to baseball.
brief post script to a lovely wedding.
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.
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
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.
even in the heart of Texas, the soul of New York City is alive, well and
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com