The Most Famous Assassinations in American History

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Andrew Goodman, 1964
> Known as: Civil rights activist
> Killed by: Edgar Ray Killen
> Assassination location: Meridian, Mississippi

New York City-born Andrew Goodman was one of the three civil rights workers killed by the Ku Klux Klan in the deep South. Goodman and his colleagues were part of the Freedom Summer movement that sought to register African-Americans to vote. From an early age, Goodman showed an intense interest in social causes and equal justice. At the time of his death, the nation’s support of voting rights was strengthening, and the murders of the civil rights workers eventually led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

17. James Chaney, 1964
> Known as: Civil rights activist
> Killed by: Edgar Ray Killen
> Assassination location: Meridian, Mississippi

James Chaney was the third civil rights worker killed alongside Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner in Mississippi in 1964. Although the three men went missing on June 21, their bodies weren’t found until a month later. By the mid-1960s, the death of the three civil rights workers sparked public outrage, and President Lyndon Johnson ordered the FBI to investigate the case — a sign that politicians were more willing to tackle the issue of racial equality.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

18. Malcolm X, 1965
> Known as: Black Muslim leader
> Killed by: Mujahid Abdul Halim
> Assassination location: New York City, New York

Although a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X professed radically different ideas about how African-Americans could achieve racial justice. While King supported non-violence, Malcolm X advocated African-Americans gain equality “by any means necessary,” including violence. A bitter split within the Nation of Islam is said to be the reason behind his assassination. In 2021, two of the three men convicted in the killing were exonerated after evidence proved that law enforcement overlooked key exculpatory evidence. Mujahid Abdul Halim confessed to the crime shortly after it happened, but maintained his two co-defendants were innocent,


Source: Lee Lockwood / Getty Images

19. George Lincoln Rockwell, 1967
> Known as: Founder of American Nazi Party
> Killed by: John Patler
> Assassination location: Arlington, Virginia

The assassination of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party in Virginia five decades ago, by a man expelled from the American Nazi Party, did not put to rest bigotry and anti-Semitism. Last year, Neo-Nazis and white nationalists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia — not far from where Rockwell was killed. During a clash between white nationalists and their opponents, one woman was killed. It was a chilling reminder that while Rockwell is dead, the ideas he advocated are not.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

20. Martin Luther King Jr., 1968
> Known as: Civil rights leader
> Killed by: James Earl Ray
> Assassination location: Memphis, Tennessee

Martin Luther King, Jr. today is recognized as the foremost leader of the American civil rights movement, and the nation celebrates a day in his honor. Though he preached non-violence throughout his career as an activist, his assassination at the hands of James Earl Ray at a Memphis motel triggered riots and civil unrest in cities across the country. King’s death is one reason why 1968 is often considered one of the most turbulent years in U.S. history. The nation continues to grapple with the issues of social injustice that King sought to bring to the forefront.

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