1964: Freedom Summer

     During the summer of 1964, thousands of civil rights activists, many of them white college students from the North, descended on Mississippi and other Southern states to try to end the long-time political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the region. 
     Freedom Summer marked the climax of intensive voter-registration activities in the South that started in 1961. Organizers chose to focus their efforts on Mississippi because of  the state's particularly dismal voting-rights record: In 1962 only 6.7 percent of African Americans in the state were registered to vote, the lowest percentage in the country.
     Freedom Summer officials established "Freedom Schools" in towns throughout Mississippi to address the racial inequalities in Mississippi's educational system. ... Many of the white college students were assigned to teach in these schools, whose curriculum included black history, the philosophy of the Civil Rights Movement, and leadership development in addition to remedial instruction in reading and arithmetic. The Freedom Schools had hoped to draw at least 1,000 students that first summer and ended up with 3,000.
     Freedom Summer activists faced threats and harassment throughout the campaign, not only from white supremacist groups, but from local residents and police. Freedom School buildings and the volunteers' homes were frequent targets; 37 black churches and 30 black home and businesses were firebombed or burned during that summer, and the cases often went unsolved. More than 1,000 black and white volunteers were arrested, and at least 80 were beaten by white mobs or racist police officers. But the summer's most infamous act of violence was the murder of three young civil rights workers, a black volunteer, James Chaney, and his white co-workers, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. ...
     The well-publicized voter registration drives brought national attention to the subject of black disenfranchisement, and this eventually led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, federal legislation that among other things outlawed the tactics that Southern states had used to prevent blacks from voting. Freedom Summer also instilled among African Americans a new consciousness and a new confidence in political action.
     -- Excerpted from "Civil Rights: An A-to-Z Reference of the Movement That Changed America" (Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., editors, 2004)
     -- Photo by Ted Polumbaum (link to his Freedom Summer photos below)

March 20, 1964
     Official announcement of project.
* Press release (Wisconsin Historical Society): @ 
* "Mississippi Awaiting Long, Hot Summer" (Associated Press, May 20): @

June 14
     Volunteer training begins at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio.
* "Ohio College Center For Rights Trainees" (Scripps-Howard, June 18): @
* "Summer Project Readied" (The Student Voice, publication of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, July 2, page 2): @
      -- Photo by Ted Polumbaum; among those training in nonviolent resistance was Andrew Goldman, in dark T-shirt.

June 19
     "A great storm is gathering -- and may break very soon indeed -- in the state of Mississippi and some other regions of the South. ... Before long, moreover, the situation will be enormously complicated -- and envenomed -- by the arrival of several hundred northern white and Negro students recruited to open 'freedom schools' in Mississippi this summer." -- Joseph Alsop 
* "The Gathering Storm in Mississippi" (The Miami News): @

June 20
    First volunteers arrive in Mississippi.
* "They're Coming To Mississippi -- and They're Scared" (Associated Press, June 19): @
* "Race Corps Moving on Mississippi" (Chicago Sun-Times, June 20): @
* "Security Handbook" (Wisconsin Historical Society): @

June 21
     Civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney and Michael Henry Schwerner disappear. (Separate post: @)
* Summary from Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (Ferris State University): @

July 2
     President Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Separate post: @)
* Summary (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights): @ 
* "The Civil Rights Act of 1964: What's in it ... How you can use it to obtain the Rights it guarantees" (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights): @

July 2
      First Freedom Schools open.
* "The Freedom Schools: Concept and Organization" (Staughton Lynd, 1964, History Is A Weapon website): @
* "The Freedom Schools, An Informal History" (Lynd, 2004): @
* "Freedom School Curriculum" (Education and Democracy website): @
* "Freedom School Data" (Council of Federated Organizations): @
* "Freedom School Held Under Tree" (New York Times, July 3): @
* "Summer Project: Progress Report I" (The Student Voice, July 15, page 3): @
* "Freedom Schools Mississippi" (The Student Voice, August 5, pages 2-3): @
      -- Photo by Staughton Lynd; outdoor classroom in Indianola.

August 4
     Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner found dead.
* "Bodies of Three Civil Rights Workers Discovered in Mississippi" (Finding Dulcinea): @

August 6
     Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party holds state convention in Jackson. (Separate post on MFDP: @) In Meridian, the Mississippi Freedom School Convention takes place Aug. 6-8.
* "1964 Platform of the Mississippi Freedom School Convention": @

     The project did not end with the summer; voter registration efforts continued. Most of the volunteers returned to school, but not all; this is a portion of a letter from Gail Falk, who decided to stay on in Meridian (from "Letters from Mississippi," linked below).
    Whatever small bit we did for Mississippi this summer, Mississippi did ten times as much for us ... Now that I have taught, I know what I want to learn about teaching. Now that I have helped people understand what it means to be a citizen in a democracy, I know things that I still have to understand. Now that I have worked with people to change the society in which they live, I know what I want to learn about societies and how other people have changed theirs ... I guess the thing that pulls me back most are the people who made us a part of their community ... In Mississippi I have felt more love, more sympathy and warmth, more community than I have known in my life. And especially the children pull me back ...
* Falk's website: @
* Entries from Civil Rights Movement Veterans: @ and @

Other resources

* "What Was the 1964 Freedom Summer Project?" (Wisconsin Historical Society): @
* "Freedom Summer: 50 Years Later" (Jackson Clarion-Ledger): @
* "Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students" (Wisconsin Historical Society): @
* "Freedom Summer campaign for African American voting rights in Mississippi, 1964" (Global Nonviolent Action Database): @
* Maps of activities: @ (National Museum of American History) and @ (Keeping History Alive, website of volunteer Patti Miller) 
* Freedom Summer Incident Summary by City or County (University of Southern Mississippi): @
* Mississippi Summer Project: Running Summary of Events (June-August, University of Southern Mississippi): @ 
* Timeline (Wisconsin Historical Society): @
* Freedom Summer 50th (anniversary conference website, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement): @
* Mississippi Freedom Summer Events (Civil Rights Movement Veterans): @
* Documents from Freedom Summer (Civil Rights Movement Veterans): @
* Mississippi Civil Rights Project (William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation): @
* "Community Organizing I: Freedom Summer" (Jewish Women's Archive): @
* "Let Freedom Ring" (City University of New York curriculum): @
* "Crusade in Mississippi" (Ebony magazine, September 1964): @
* "Voting in Mississippi" (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1965): @

* Freedom Summer (Civil Rights Digital Library): @
* 1964 Freedom Summer Collection (Wisconsin Historical Society): @
* Images and Documents (Western College Memorial Archives, Miami University of Ohio): @
* Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive (University of Southern Mississippi): @
* Tougaloo College and Brown University: @
* Queens College Civil Rights Archives: @

Personal accounts
* "Freedom Summer Recollections" (Terri Shaw, University of Southern Mississippi Collections): @
* "The Mississippi Summer Project: Holly Springs Participant Reports Nervous Beginnings, Eerie Tension" (Peter Cummings, 1964, The Harvard Crimson): @
* "Three Letters From a Freedom School Teacher" (Civil Rights Movement Veterans): @
* "We Were Not Afraid" (Matthew Zwerling, 2014, Rochester Review): @
* "Last Summer in Mississippi" (Alice Lake, Redbook, November 1964): @
* "Freedom Libraries of the Mississippi Summer Project" (Virginia Steele, Southeastern Libraries, July 1965): @
* Mississippi Freedom Project (oral histories; African American History Project, University of Florida): @
* "A Life for a Vote" (John Hersey, The Saturday Evening Post, September 1964): @
* "Oh Freedom Over Me" (American Radio Works, 2001): @

* Wisconsin Historical Society: @
* Herbert Randall: @ (University of Southern Mississippi)
* Ted Polumbaum (Newseum): @ 
* Matt Herron and George Ballis (Take Stock): @
* Meridian Freedom School / Patti Miller: @

* "Freedom Summer" (Stanley Nelson, 2014): @
* "Mississippi: Is This America?" (from "Eyes on the Prize," 1987): @; transcript: @
* "1964: Spotlights" (from NBC): @
* "Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi" (The Choices Program, Brown University): @ 
* "1964 at 50: Remembering the Mississippi Summer Project" (Organization of American Historians): @

* "Freedom Summer" (Sally Belfrage, 1965): @
* "Freedom Summer" (Doug McAdam, 1988): @
* "Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America A Democracy" (Bruce Watson, 2010): @
* "Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi" (John Dittmer, 1994): @
* "Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi" (James P. Marshall, 2013): @
* "I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle" (Charles M. Payne, 2007): @
* "Letters From Mississippi: Personal reports from civil rights volunteers of the 1964 Freedom Summer" (2002): @
* "The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement" (Bob Zellner, 2011): @
* "The Legacy of a Freedom School" (Sandra E. Adickes, 2005): @ 

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