New York State officials are gathering in a remote part of my beloved Adirondacks this splendid August day to dedicate a new hiking trail up a mountain with a new name: Goodman Mountain, in honor of Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights volunteers killed fifty years ago in Philadelphia Mississippi in what some have called the “Pearl Harbor of the civil rights movement.”
Goodman was 20, son of a prominent family who vacationed every summer in the Adirondack hamlet of Tupper Lake. One of his two colleagues, Michael Schwerner, 24, spent his summers not far to the south on Great Sacandaga Lake. They were paired with James Chaney, a 21-year-old black Mississippi native, and almost immediately after their arrival in the South they were abducted and murdered by local whites.
The hunt for the men became a cause celebre, with involvement right up to the White House, and to many civil rights activists that became proof that white lives mattered more than black ones–Schwerner’s widow, herself an organizer for the Congress on Racial Equality, told reporters that if Chaney alone had been murdered it would have gone unnoticed. It doubtless was a valid complaint–this, as we learned again in Ferguson this month, is a nation with a deep ability to overlook the victimization of African Americans.
But none of that lessens Goodman’s nobility, nor the fact that his disappearance helped bring home the reality of the movement struggles to a very different and distant place. North Country Public Radio, in a remarkable piece earlier this summer, quoted from a 50-year-old edition of the local paper:
The civil rights struggle waged with increasing bitterness in recent months, and observed with detached interest by most of us as something largely outside our experience took on reality earlier this week with a disappearance under apparently tragic circumstances of a volunteer in that cause who spent much of his young life here in Tupper Lake.
Andrew Goodman, 20, one of three civil right workers who disappeared Sunday, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Goodman and the grandson of the late Charles Goodman who erected the palatial Shelter Cove Camp a short distance from Bog River Falls on Big Tupper Lake in 1933.
Every Adirondack peak is majestic in its own way, but I’m eager to climb this one soon–it stands a little taller than its USGS marker would indicate, I think.