Meridian Summer

On June 21, 1964, Klan members from Meridian's Lauderdale County and nearby Neshoba County were on the lookout for a blue station wagon being driven by civil rights workers. That night they murdered James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. The car's license plate number had been provided by a member of the black community to a member of Meridian's White Citizens' Council, given by him to the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, and passed on to the Klan members. On June 21, 2005, exactly forty-one years after the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, Ku Klux Klan member Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to sixty years in prison. No one else has ever been tried as an accomplice to the murders.

Out of this history came my play, MERIDIAN SUMMER. This play has its roots in my childhood. Every summer, we visited my mother's family in Meridian, Mississippi. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned that James Chaney was a native of Meridian. Growing up, I had heard from my white family that "outside agitators" were to be blamed for all the "troubles." I wanted to write about the Movement from some very personal points of view, both inside it and outside it. MERIDIAN SUMMER is a work of fiction based on actual events of Freedom Summer, 1964.

More than 50 years ago James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andy Goodman were killed for working to register African-Americans to vote. In writing MERIDIAN SUMMER, I hoped to show the power of prejudice and to honor those who continue the struggle for human rights.

If you’d like to read MERIDIAN SUMMER, please download the PDF here. If you wish to perform the play, please contact me for permission and royalty information.

Winner of the 2006-2007 Kaplan Prize and the Cape Cod Playwrights’ Competition, which included a staged reading produced by Eventide Arts and the Cape Cod Writers’ Center, Dennis, MA

Other readings of the play include:
  • Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT), workshop reading, Wellfleet, MA
  • Cotuit Center for the Arts, co-sponsored by Zion Union Heritage Museum
  • Cape Cod Community College, Hyannis, MA
  • Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, Chatham, MA
  • Cape Cod Branch of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), in honor of WILPF's receipt of the James Chaney Prize for anti-racism work, Harwich, MA


Meridian Summer blossoms in Dennis - Bethany Gibbons, Barnstable Patriot