With your help, JWA programs and resources can enrich lives, build resilience, and sustain hope for a better world. Join our effort today with a contribution to JWA by December 31. Thank you!
Close [x]

Show [+]

Rita SchwernerBender

When her husband was murdered during Freedom Summer in 1964 in Mississippi, Rita Levant Schwerner Bender used the ensuing media attention to focus the public’s awareness on the importance of civil rights. Bender and her first husband, Michael Schwerner, shared a passion for the civil rights movement and moved to Mississippi in 1964 to register black voters. During training for Freedom Summer, Michael Schwerner and two other volunteers, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, were murdered by the KKK. In a statement, Bender, widowed at 22, pointed out that the media attention was due entirely to the fact that her husband and Andrew Goodman were white, calling out the fact that murders of African Americans that regularly went unremarked throughout the South. Just months later, she participated in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention, protesting the lack of representation for black voters. She graduated from Rutgers School of Law in 1968 and worked with the ACLU for several years before opening a family law practice specializing in adoption and assisted reproduction. As of 2017, she works to provide legal aid for indigent populations.

1 Comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Is Rita Levant Schwerner Bender biracial?

Date of Birth

New York, NY
United States

Activist, Lawyer

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rita Schwerner." (Viewed on December 3, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/bender-rita>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox