In 1964, three civil rights workers were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Neshoba County, Mississippi, with the collusion of the Sheriff's Department. Three men, James Chaney, a black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a white Jewish anthropology student from New York, and; Michael Schwerner, a white Jewish social worker also from New York, were detained for speeding by Deputy Cecil Price. Price placed them in the county jail, ordered the secretary to allow them no contact with the outside world, and then made plans with fellow KKK members to murder the three.
After being held for several hours, the three were released. As they approached the edge of town, Price again pulled them over and held them until other KKK members could arrive. They were then taken to an isolated spot where all three were shot to death. Cheney was severely beaten before he was shot. Their bodies were buried in an earthen dam.
Outrage at the disappearances prompted President Lyndon Johnson to all but force the FBI to investigate. In time, the identities of the killers was revealed, but the state refused to prosecute. Several responsible, Price included, were tried for the federal crime of violating the three mens' civil rights (although others were acquitted, including Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey). It was not until the first decade of the 21st Century that any of the participants were convicted of murder when Edgar Ray Killen was convicted manslaughter in 2005. Most of the others had died in the meantime.
Mississippi Civil Rights Workers Murders in "He Woke in Darkness"
Not long after Deputy Cecil Price participated in the murder of the three civil rights workers, he was plagued by a persistent nightmare. In it, the racial hierarchy of Mississippi was inverted, with blacks on top and whites on the bottom. Further, Price dreamed that he was a civil rights worker, replacing James Chaney, and that he and two Black Muslims from the North were murdered by black supremacists in much the same way he and some of his friends had murdered Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. He lived with this dream until the day he died.