Queens College celebrated its 91st commencement last month by posthumously awarding an honorary doctorate to civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, who studied at the college. Goodman, along with fellow activists James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, was slain by members of the Ku Klux Klan 51 years ago in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for daring to help African Americans register to vote.
“The story of Andrew Goodman is inexorably linked to all of you,” David Goodman, who accepted the award on his brother’s behalf, told the Class of 2015. “You own this story. This story belongs to America.”
“Andy had the idea he could be a meaningful participant in our democracy, an idea that flourished right here at Queens College,” Goodman continued. “My brother graduates with you today.”
It was a poignant moment, calling attention to the brevity of Andrew Goodman’s life; he was still a college student at the time he was kidnapped and brutally slain. And he was aware of the danger, Queens College alumna Barbara Omolade, who helped recruit Goodman to the 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration campaign, told Clarion last year.
“Everybody was aware that Mississippi was dangerous,” Omolade told Clarion. “People had been killed. Medgar Evers had been murdered [in Jackson, Mississippi] the year before.”
After accepting his brother’s award, David Goodman was hardly resting. On June 25, he joined U.S. Representative John Lewis as the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader entered the text of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 into the Congressional Record. The legislation, which at press time was slated for introduction by Democrats in both the House and Senate, is designed to restore parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in the 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder.