On June 26, 2014, the Kansas City, Missouri Branch of the NAACP held a special event commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Leonard Zeskind was one of two speakers, and his discussed the significance of the murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman by white supremacists at the outset of the summer.
In 1967 18 men were finally brought to trial. Only seven were convicted. Rev. Ray Killen escaped conviction because the all-white jury could not convict a preacher. Finally in 2005, Ray Killen, who organized the murder squad that night, was convicted. The Mississippi White Knights, headed by Sam Bowers, had 6,000 members at that time. Bowers served six years in federal prison for the murder of the three civil rights activists. Bowers was finally convicted in 1998 for the 1966 murder of Vernon Dahmer, the president of the NAACP in Hattiesburg. He died in prison. The murders and violence in Mississippi pointed to the extraordinary bravery of civil rights activists at that time, a moral courage that should be remembered and emulated now.
Activist, writer and historian Joelouis Mattox was also a speaker at the NAACP event.