Mississippi Freedom Summer • A 1964 CR campaign by SNCC and CORE • Brought more than a thousand Northerners, black and white, to Mississippi. • Along with Mississippians, worked on voter registration and community education.
Wanted to bring attention to Mississippi, the most segregated and violent state in the South • Only 6.7% eligible Af Am voters registered. • “There is no state with a record that approaches in inhumanity, murder, brutality, and racial hatred. It is absolutely at the bottom of the list.” Medger Evers
Planning • Freedom Summer volunteers were told that their job would not be "save the Mississippi Negro" but to work with local leadership. • Included doctors, lawyers, ministers, and college students. • Volunteers trained in Oxford, Ohio to prepare them for nonviolent action.
“For many of you, this will be the first experience with a totalitarian state," he said. "In Mississippi, remember that your word isn't worth anything. You are an incompetent witness in your own case. You are presumed guilty.“ African-American lawyer, 1964
Mississippi Reaction • Called the “invasion” by Southern whites, who reacted with violence. • Over the course of the ten-week project: • 4 CR workers killed • 4 were critically wounded • 80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten • 1000 people were arrested (volunteers and locals) • 37 churches were bombed • 30 Black homes/businesses were bombed
Mississippi Murders • On June 21, 1964, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, both CORE organizers, and summer volunteer Andrew Goodman were arrested. • Released into a waiting ambush by Klansmen. • Reported on TV and on newspaper front pages, the triple disappearance shocked the nation. • All three were shot and bodies buried. • Drew massive media attention to Freedom Summer and to Mississippi racism.
Summer Volunteer’s Thoughts After Murders • Their disappearance, although might have been calculated to drive others away from the state had just the opposite effect on me and everyone else. Whenever an incident like this happens—and they happen fairly often, although usually not this serious—everyone reacts the same way. They become more and more determined to stay in the state and fight the evil system that people have to live under here… • Interviewer: Are you scared? • Yes, I’m very much afraid. Everyone here is.
"All my life I’ve been sick and tired ," she shakes her head . "Now I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.“ Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964 • SNCC staff member DorieLadner worked in a summer project office. She spent sleepless nights taking threatening phone calls from segregationists. She says she was so frightened, she vomited every night after supper. "I suffered from trying to dodge white men in pickup trucks, worrying about whether or not somebody was going to bomb the house where we were sleeping, whether or not we were going to get killed.”
Impact • Before Freedom Summer, the media paid little attention to the harassment of black voters in the South. • When white students’ lives were threatened, the media spotlight was turned on the state. • Freedom Summer focused national attention on Mississippi and influenced the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
MississippiChanging • The nationwide shame created by Freedom Summer haunted Mississippi, but state made slow progress. • It took a decade for black voting to become a reality. • However, in the 1980s and 1990s, Mississippi elected more black officials than any other state. • Today, nearly every major city in Mississippi has a black mayor, black city councilmen, black policemen, judges, and other officials.