1964 – The bodies of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner are discovered

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner became martyrs to the Civil Rights Movement when they were lynched in Philedelphia, Mississippi. The three had traveled to the town to investigate the burning of a church which had hosted civil rights events, but they were arrested on trumped up charges, and then released only when they could be ambushed and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Their bodies were buried and their car hidden and burned.

A few weeks later, after a massive FBI manhunt (that only happened because Lyndon Johnson forced Bureau director J. Edgar Hoover, who hated civil rights activists, to do it), the bodies of the three were discovered, all shot dead – although while Schwerner and Goodman (who were white) were each killed by a single shot to the heart, Chaney (who was black) had been shot three times, and beaten severely before that.

The disappearance of the three led to a national outcry, and public sentiment swung dramatically towards favouring civil rights, allowing President Lyndon Johnson to push through landmark bills like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (signed into law less than a month later on July 2), and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Referenced in:
He Was My Brother – Simon & Garfunkel
Those Three are On My Mind – Pete Seeger

1944 – Anne Frank and her family are arrested by the Nazis

Anne Frank is perhaps best known for the posthumous publication of her diaries. In them, she recounts how, along with her parents and older sister, she hid in a back room of her father’s office block for two years from 1942, after the Nazi invasion of Holland. During this time, they were joined by four other Jews, also in hiding from the Nazis. Conditions were cramped and food was scarce, leading to occasional outbursts of ill-temper. On the whole, though, the eight people showed remarkable fortitude and self-control, at least as depicted in Anne’s diary.

Only six people outside of it knew of the hiding place: four of Otto Frank’s employees, the spouse of one employee and the father of another. It is believed that none of these six were responsible for the tip off that led to a raid by Nazi forces on August 2, 1944. Whoever was responsible, the results were tragic: all eight were arrested along with two of the conspirators who had helped them, and all but Otto would die in the camps, mere weeks before the Allied forces liberated them.

Anne’s diary was saved from the Nazis, and later published around the world under the title “Diary of a Young Girl.”. It is widely regarded as a moving tale of the human spirit, and also a stark caution regarding fascism. While Holocaust deniers have decried it as a forgery, its authenticity has been repeatedly proven – indeed, one of the Nazi officers who participated in the arrest has verified many of the details in it.

Referenced in:

Anne – Discus
Dear Anne – Ryan Adams
So Fresh, So Clean – Oukast
Oh Comely – Neutral Milk Hotel

1892 – Lizzie Borden murders her parents

They say she done all of ’em in.

They say she done it with an axe.

They are, in this case, probably right. Certainly someone murdered Andrew and Abby Borden with an axe, in their own home, when Lizzie was the only other person who could have been in the house at the time. But was she?

At her trial, she was acquitted, largely due to lack of evidence (although her father’s unpopularity in the community may also have been a factor). And there were other reasonably credible suspects (such as the family maid). At this late date, we’ll probably never know.

Referenced in:

Lizzie Borden — Chad Mitchell Trio
She Took An Axe — Flotsam and Jetsam