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Neshoba: The Price of Freedom

2010 November 18

A recent film documents the 40 years of impunity enjoyed by the murderers of three young civil rights workers – and by the community and state which protected them – until a multi-racial coalition decided enough was enough. Neshoba: The Price of Freedom is about to be released on DVD. To take advantage of a 35% pre-release discount, click on the ”First Run Features” banner near the top of the film’s web page.

Forty Years of Impunity: Mississippi 1964-2004

In the summer of 1964, over a thousand northern college students joined more thousands of local black youth in “Freedom Summer,” the Mississippi Summer Project. They worked to register African American voters, and taught in Freedom Schools throughout the state. On June 21st, three volunteers working in Neshoba County – New Yorkers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, and Mississippian James Chaney – disappeared. Though it was assumed that they had been assassinated, nothing was known for sure until their bodies were found 44 days later. For any northern volunteers who had taken lightly the stories they had heard of racist violence, this was a moment of truth.
…..I was a last-minute volunteer. I came late and left early and, because of my timing, I arrived in in Hattiesburg just after the three men’s disappearance. I mostly worked at one of the Freedom Schools, but managed to get myself arrested and briefly jailed for trying to help integrate the town’s public library. Though I was treated with moderate courtesy (being white) and quickly bailed out, the experience was frankly terrifying. Uncertainty about the fates of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman colored everything.
…..For more than forty years after the murders, Mississippi refused to prosecute the killers – even though they boasted publicly about their crime. In 2004, however, a multi-racial coalition of Neshoba County citizens began pressuring the state to bring charges, In January, 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, the mastermind of the killings, was indicted.
…..An old friend and colleague of mine, filmmaker Micki Dickoff, has produced an award-winning feature documentary about a society still divided over the meaning of justice. With unprecedented access to Killen – who still says the killings were justified “self-defense” of the region’s way of life – she and co-producer Tony Pagano expose “the social and political forces that perpetuated state-sanctioned terrorism and created an atmosphere of hate and fear, allowing murderers to walk free.” Yet they also profile those who have refused to let the memories fade, and who, finally, demanded justice.

  • Neshoba was honored as the Best Human Rights Film in the Canada International Film Festival. It won the Special Jury Award at WorldFest-Houston and has been an Official Selection in dozens of other prestigious festivals. At the New York Independent Film Festival it was picked as Best Political Documentary as well as garnering a special award for the Directors.
  • A.O. Scott of The New York Times called the film “fascinating and troubling…a document of hope, progress and idealism, but also a reminder that the deep springs of bigotry and violence that fed a long, vicious campaign of domestic terrorism have not dried up.”
  • Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said that it “displays the worst and best of America: the racism that will not die and the passionately concerned citizens who come together to effect significant change.”

Neshoba: The Price of Freedom is about to be released on DVD. Visit the film’s website to view the trailer, and for information about theatrical screenings. To take advantage of a 35% pre-release discount, click on the ”First Run Features” banner near the top of the film’s web page


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