How Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964 Can Inspire Us in 2024

By Eddie Wong.  Posted November 11, 2023.

Sixty years ago on November 14, 1963, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the young, militant component of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), led the organization towards a bold strategy to confront entrenched white supremacy in Mississippi.  COFO, which also included the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) launched the Mississippi Summer Project. The project was known for the 1,000 volunteers, most of them white but also some northern Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans, who went to Mississippi, the bastion of white supremacy and virtually a police state. They came to not only register voters but to establish Freedom Schools. Smaller Freedom Summer projects were also undertaken in northern Florida and northern Louisiana by CORE. Hailed as a communist invasion by Southern racists and greeted with lukewarm to hostile reaction by some in the civil rights establishment, SNCC and CORE demonstrated decisive leadership, bold vision, and grim determination to carry out the campaign despite the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner that took place right as the campaign kicked off in June 1964.

MS Freedom Summer volunteers on a voter canvass. Photo by Ted Polumbaum/Newseum.

As I read about the deliberations that surrounded the controversial decision to recruit hundreds of white students and place them and their Black host families in great danger, I was impressed by SNCC’s ability to analyze the situation, devise a multi-part strategy, and execute the campaign all within a matter of months.  Bob Moses, who led the Mississippi Freedom Summer project, argued that little progress had been made in recruiting Black Mississippians to face the daunting registration process. Although several local Blacks were recruited to lead the campaign, ordinary citizens who went to register faced the violent response of the white city and town officials and the Ku Klux Klan. People who marched in front of local courthouses (the site of many city registrars) were beaten and arrested by police. Those who survived the registration process had their names published in the local newspaper which was quickly followed by the loss of their jobs. Out of the 425,000 eligible Black voters in Mississippi, only 5% of them were registered to vote in 1963. Without federal intervention to challenge state-sanctioned denial of Black voting rights and the intervention of the FBI and US Justice Department to investigate attacks on civil rights advocates, Mississippi and other southern states would allow police and the local judges to squash the voter registration drives.  Something had to be done.

Bob Moses, leader of SNCC’s Voter Registration Drive, told SNCC Conference attendees in December 1963 that “there was little possibility that the white population would make any real changes in the status of the Negro voluntarily, and that it would not accept any substantial changes in the ‘power structure’ without federal intervention. SNCC’s job is to bring about just such a confrontation.”  White students from liberal colleges in the North, Midwest, and West would become the shock troops and their participation would elicit northern concern from middle-class and upper-class white parents and bring extensive media coverage.

Once the decision was affirmed, a vigorous fundraising campaign was started in February 1964 and a rigorous recruitment process was established to ensure that the northern volunteers would follow Black leadership, adhere to security and mandated social practices, and learn from the local communities. They did not want people with a white savior complex or unstable people who could become violent in face of provocations.

Bob Moses, Director of the COFO Mississippi Summer Project. Photo by Steve Schapiro/PBS.

Making an assessment of the situation and finding a creative and daring strategy is certainly a major lesson from Freedom Summer that can be applied to our current stalemate between the multiracial democratic forces and the MAGA authoritarians. Secondly, being able to build a united front with labor, liberals, progressive clergy, and national foundations was another achievement by the Freedom Summer organizers.  Lastly and most importantly, having an established base in the Black community was critical to the success of Freedom Summer.  Let’s explore how all of this evolved in the course of 1963 to 1964.

“Give Light and People Will Find The Way”

In many ways, this short and memorable phrase by Ella Baker, who worked with the NAACP and SCLC, and then joined SNCC captured the spirit she fostered, i.e., people can lead themselves once they are given the tools for their own liberation. In 1963, SNCC turned on the light. They took local voter registration drives and developed a statewide campaign which engaged thousands of Black Mississippians and made the national headlines.

Black Mississippians who sought to become registered voters faced many obstacles: poll taxes and a “literary” test where registrars asked applicants to read one of 285 sections of the Mississippi Constitution and interpret it to the registrar’s satisfaction. As a result, only 12,000 African Americans in Mississippi were registered to vote in 1963.  The white establishment used this fact to say that Blacks weren’t interested in voting and for many African Americans voting just wasn’t worth the suffering that would result for having one’s life and livelihood jeopardized.  There had to be a way to break the chain of fear that shackled Black Mississippians and to demonstrate to the nation and federal authorities that Black people wanted to vote.

In summer 1963, COFO decided to launch Freedom Vote and register Black Mississippians to vote for its own slate of candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor and other county offices in a community-run election.  At a statewide convention in October, regional delegates nominated Aaron Henry, state NAACP chair, for Governor and Rev. Ed King, Chaplin at Tugaloo College as Lt. Governor, creating the first bi-racial slate in Mississippi history. The convention also drafted a progressive program that included raising the minimum wage, creating a farmer loan program, and guaranteeing voting rights for all Blacks.

SNCC and other civil rights activists fanned across the state telling folks that registering to vote in Freedom Vote simply entailed going to a polling site – a church, a beauty parlor, a barbershop – between Nov. 2 and 4 to cast a ballot.  Aaron Henry spoke from one end of the state to the other and drew huge crowds, including a crowd of 1,000 people in Hattiesburg, MS.

Campaign flyer for Freedom Vote. Wisconsin Historical Society collection.

Freedom Vote was also the first time that large numbers of white students from Yale University and Stanford University were asked to come to Mississippi. Over 100 students answered the call and arrived to distribute leaflets and work in COFO offices. The white students who were leafletting in Jackson, Columbus, and Indianola soon experienced the same harassment SNCC and COFO workers had always faced; they got arrested for “racial disturbance” and had to be bailed out. These arrests naturally attracted press coverage and focused attention on the repressive measures Blacks faced in order to vote.

Over 80,000 Black Mississippians voted and given the Henry/King ticket 90% of their votes. There could be no doubt that a mighty collective voice had refuted the lie that Blacks weren’t interested in voting.  Moreover, this organizing drive demonstrated that there was a deep base of support for COFO and the civil rights struggle.  This statewide campaign brought new activists into the movement and gave them vital skills that would be applied in subsequent campaigns.

Freedom Vote also led to a wider debate about bringing in more white students. Thus, on Nov. 14, 1963 at a COFO meeting attended by seven white staff and 35 Black SNCC field secretaries (full-time organizers who were paid $10/week), Bob Moses’ proposal for the recruitment of 1,000 white students from the North for voter registration work in summer 1964 was presented and hotly debated.  Some SNCC veterans argued that the infusion of a large number of white students would take the focus away from local Black leadership. Others such as Fannie Lou Hamer responded, “If we’re trying to break down the barriers of segregation, we can’t segregate ourselves.”  The debate continued until December when a final decision to bring in 100 white students was approved. The response was so great that in the end 1,000 students from the North, Midwest and West were recruited by COFO. Similar recruitment efforts resulted roughly 100 white students coming to CORE’s northern Florida and northern Louisiana summer projects.

With recruitment in motion, the task of fundraising fell upon the Friends of SNCC chapters on campuses and cities. SNCC’s Freedom Singers, which was composed of Bernice Reagon, Cordell Reagon, Rutha Mae Harris, Chuck Neblett, and Bertha Gober, traveled around the country giving concerts; they raised $5,000 per week. A fundraising Town Hall event at the National Theater in Washington, D.C. with writer Joseph Heller, author of the best-seller “Catch-22,” child psychiatrist Robert Coles, and Mississippi activists Fannie Lou Hamer and Elizabeth Allen, widow of Louis Allen who was killed for testifying about the murder of Herbert Lee, drew a packed house.  By the end of March 1964, SNCC had raised $97,000. Additional funds to meet the estimated $200,000 budget came from labor unions, religious organizations, and individuals.

SNCC Freedom Singers in 1963. Photo by Joe Alper.

Volunteers went through a week-long training in Oxford, OH where they practiced non-violent resistance and learned about how to work with the COFO staff, which mainly consisted of SNCC and CORE workers. They were dispatched throughout the state of Mississippi from the hill country to the verdant Mississippi Delta. Greeting them were thousands of Black Mississippians who worked alongside with the white volunteers. They sheltered them in the Black community and in some cases the host families provided armed security to protect them against night riders. Many direct accounts written about Mississippi Freedom Summer testify to the danger and tension in the air as white racists did all they could to deter their voter registration efforts. But there are also many accounts of the joy in solidarity and for a brief moment the experience of being in a beloved community.

What Did Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964 Accomplish?

The organizing efforts that were part of MS Freedom Summer accomplished many of the key goals articulated by Bob Moses and other SNCC leaders.

First, bringing white students did attract massive press coverage, particularly from hometown newspapers of the students. The white students often wrote to their local newspapers and to their college newspapers and gave first-hand testimony about the systematic racism faced by Black Mississippians. Their accounts of the drive-by shootings and bombing directed at them and the local Black community by the KKK and other white racists made people aware of the civil rights struggle on a personal level. (Note: For a personal account, see East Wind ezine’s profile of Carl Imiola Young,  a Chinese American volunteer from Honolulu, HI who went to Hattiesburg, MS.)

Article from Miami University Digital Collection from a New Jersey newspaper.

Article from Cincinnati Enquirer, June 1964.

National press coverage focused on Mississippi from June to August 1964 after the disappearance of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, three CORE volunteers who went to investigate the firebombing of Mt. Zion Baptist Church near Philadelphia, MS. Hundreds of FBI agents and the U.S. Navy were dispatched to Mississippi to drag rivers and search for the men.  That search did find the remains of eight Black youth, including that of 14-year-old Herbert Oarsby who was wearing a CORE T-shirt at the time of his murder. After weeks of searching, an informant directed officials to an earthen dam on a farm where the bodies of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were exhumed on Aug. 4, 1964.

At the funeral of James Chaney, who was a Black plasterer’s apprentice and CORE worker from Meridian, MS, 500 people were galvanized by the fiery speech of Dave Dennis, the CORE Director in Mississippi.  The murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner are remembered to this day as a prime example of the police’s collusion with the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Secondly, the organizing drive exposed the horrible conditions of poverty and institutional neglect and suppression that the state of Mississippi enacted upon Black Mississippians.  Health care was barely available for poor Blacks. Twelve doctors from New York answered COFO’s call for medical assistance for the civil rights workers.  They formed the Medical Committee for Human Rights and  brought 100 medical volunteers to Mississippi during Freedom Summer to work with local Black doctors to run health clinics at the Freedom Schools and community centers. The doctors were not granted medical licenses to practice in Mississippi but could give “emergency” treatment. Some of the clinics continued after Freedom Summer.

Legal aid was non-existent in Black communities and COFO knew that the number of arrests would increase in summer 1964 as thousands of volunteers, black and white, posed a direct challenge to local authorities.  Thus, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) stepped in with 70 volunteers who worked with the three Black attorneys in Mississippi. NLG lawyers in the Committee for Legal Assistance to the South handled 45 cases and represented 315 defendants. Some attorneys interviewed Black residents as witnesses in the harassment of civil rights workers by police and white racists. Although red-baited by the press and some in the civil rights establishment, SNCC welcomed the NLG’s participation.

Mississippi had segregated schools and Black schools barely had books and supplies. So the call went out via SNCC newsletters and a full-page ad in Harper’s Magazine for people around the country to donate books, pencils, pens, paper, typewriters and mimeograph machines. By the end of Freedom Summer, 40 Freedom Schools in 20 communities had been established. They served 2,000 students, including adults who sought literacy education. The Freedom Schools were staffed by 175 teachers, many of whom were college students. A people’s history curriculum designed by history professor and activist Staughton Lynd from Spelman College.

Mississippi Freedom School, location unknown, from CORE pamphlet.

Sandra Adickes, a school teacher in Prince Edward County, Virginia, taught at a Freedom School in Hattiesburg, MS and she made the following observations in an oral history interview in Mississippi – A Documentary History (University of Mississippi Press, 2003):

They (the Black high school students) were furious at the inequity. .. they couldn’t use the public library. They had a little room downtown where they could go where all the cast-off books were kept.

 There was a sense of ‘Here, we know what a school is finally. We have teachers who respect us, who want to hear what we have to say, who care about us, who want something for us in this life.’ Having tasted what school was… it changed their aspirations.

Two girls at Freedom School. Location unknown. Photo by Ken Thompson, United Methodist Church Global Ministries.

Students in Philadelphia, MS returned to schools in the fall wearing “One Man, One Vote” buttons that COFO used to promote the Freedom Vote campaign. When school principals in Issaquena and Sharkey counties banned students from wearing the buttons, they launched an eight-month boycott.

The Freedom School movement led to the formation of the Child Development Group of Mississippi that started 84 summer school centers that served 5,600 children in July 1965.  This became the precursor of the Head Start program for early childhood education.

Third, voter registration drives succeeded in bringing 17,000 people to the courthouses where the vast majority were refused the right to vote on spurious grounds. Only 1,600 new registrants were accepted in the official channels, but tens of thousands demonstrated their desire to vote via the mock elections process. Concurrent with the recruitment of students to help with voter registration work and to establish Freedom Schools was the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which was organized out of the momentum created by COFO’s Freedom Vote campaign in fall 1963. Volunteers from Mississippi Summer Project helped the MFDP sign up 80,000 members. Precinct and county organizations were established which in turn elected delegates to a state convention attended by 2,500 people.  MFDP’s goal was to attend the national Democratic Party convention in August in Atlantic City and ask that their slate of 68 delegates be seated instead of the official party delegation, which only represented white voters. Although MFDP were not successful in their bid – they rejected a compromise offer to seat just two of the MFDP delegates – an impassioned speech by Fannie Lou Hamer before the Democratic Party Rules Committee was broadcast nationally on television. MFDP also held several rallies on the Atlantic City boardwalk to decry the terrible violations of civil rights and the exploitation of Black people in Mississippi.

 

The MFDP continued to organize in Greenwood, the largest town in the Mississippi Delta, in 1965 and led a boycott of white businesses which wouldn’t hire Blacks. By November 1965, the campaign to hire Blacks resulted in the employment of three Negro crossing guards at the local elementary school. Sam Block, who had been SNCC’s representative in Greenwood since 1962 helped organize the Greenwood Voter’s League in 1965.

Organizing in Mississippi continued throughout the mid to late 1960s, highlighted by James Meredith’s March Against Fear in June 1966. Meredith set out on a 21-day march from Memphis, TN to Jackson, MS to protest ongoing voting rights discrimination. He was shot on the second day of the march on June 6 and civil rights organizations rushed in to continue the march. 4,000 people were registered to vote during the march, which concluded on June 26 with a 15,000-person rally at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson.

CORE’s Freedom Summer project in northern Louisiana brought in 31 volunteers from the North to set up voting rights clinics in rural counties to teach literacy to hundreds of Black plantation workers. However, when applicants went to the courthouse to register to vote, they faced violence, i.e., a man shot at civil rights workers near the St. Francesville, LA courthouse. They escaped unharmed and held a 100-person rally that night at the Masonic Temple at Laurel Hill. Once more, shots were fired at the gathering. In face of intimidation, local residents and the northern volunteers, carried on the work.

Nearly 10,000 new Black voters sought to become registered in CORE’s Freedom Summer project in Alabama. After Freedom Summer ended, a Civic Interest Group was established in Gadsden, AL and a Voter’s League was set up in Jefferson, AL.

All of these efforts by COFO, SNCC, the Mississippi NAACP, National Council of Churches and CORE aided the larger push for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  All the civil rights organizations joined SCLC’s call for the March from Selma to Montgomery, AL after the murder of activist Jimmy Lee Jackson by state troopers in February 1965. Confrontations such as the March 7 and the “Bloody Sunday”  attack by AL police on 600 marchers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma electrified the nation. One week later, President Lyndon B. Johnson went on national television before a joint session of Congress to urge passage of the Voting Rights Act. Labor unions, national religious organizations, and individuals flocked to the concluding 25,000 person rally on March 25 at the Alabama State Capital. The Voting Rights Act was signed on Aug. 6, 1965 and mandated federal oversight of state elections, the removal of the poll tax and literacy tests, and provided for federal review of the drawing of legislative district lines. Black voter registration climbed from 35% of eligible voters to 65% by 1969.

Personal and Societial Transformation

Perhaps the most profound outgrowth of MS Freedom Summer was the personal transformations that occurred among the students and the local residents. It was the first time that some Black Mississippians interacted with sympathetic whites, and it was the first time some white students had worked closely with Black people. The experience of being under fire for civil rights activities during Freedom Summer – 1,063 civil rights workers were arrested, 80 Freedom Summer volunteers were beaten, 37 churches were bombed or burned, and James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three CORE volunteers, were murdered – created lasting impressions.

Many of the white students were struck by the sacrifices made by their local hosts. Veteran organizer and progressive leader Heather Booth  spoke with me about Andrew and Mary Lou Hawkins, who hosted her and three others in Shaw, MS.

As she shared her experiences with the Hawkins family, the rising indignation in her voice underscored the hardships Black Mississippians faced.

“They took in four students and all of us slept in the same bed. I didn’t realize that we were in the parents’ bed, they were sleeping on the couch.  The had four little kids in this little house. They fed us and cared for us… I learned that Mr. Hawkins challenged the town of Shaw in a lawsuit over how in the Black part of town there were no streetlamps, there was no sewer system, there were no paved roads, no indoor plumbing.  In the white part of town, they had a tennis court and a swimming pool. Following that (lawsuit) his home was firebombed twice and in the second firebombing his son Andrew, Jr. and two of his grandkids were killed.”

Like many of the northern volunteers, Heather had to learn to live with fear and steadfastly carry out the day-to-day work of  registering voters and teaching in a Freedom School.

When we crossed the Mississippi state line, there was a hush on the bus. I remember literally the symbolism of crossing the state line. We were warned about having mixed race groups and of how you’re jeopardizing people’s lives in that way. And I took it very seriously. Our first stop was in Ruleville, MS and we met with Mrs. Hamer and her friends. She was as remarkable as everyone has said. She brought a moral honesty and clarity even in the smallest things. I was an 18-year-old who didn’t know which end was up. And she was caring and respectful towards me.

Heather Booth (left with guitar) and Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and her friends at her house in Ruleville, MS.

Heather also recounted the daily pressure civil rights workers encountered in Shaw, MS.

Stokely (Carmichael) was our regional director and at one point there was a decision that our project would break up. We had threats to the project and one night we had night riders coming around the Freedom House when we were having a mass meeting. We had to lie down on the concrete floor for hours. People were saying ‘we’re going to kill you,’ and they’re throwing lit gasoline filled bottles at the house.

The impact on me was profound both just seeing the reality of the horrors of what life is like, of what desperate poverty means and seeing the incredible generosity of people in hard circumstances. And also learning about other cultures, the music of the Spirit, the joys of being together and seeing the level of political strategy, that it wasn’t just random action. Black people outnumbered whites but you gotta get registered and vote to change the laws.

Freedom Summer also transformed the lives of young Black Mississippians, not only via the enrichment opportunities in the Freedom School but the encouragement to become political activists.  Clarence Johnson, who is the pastor of Mills Grove Christian Church in East Oakland, CA, was 14 years old when he attended the Freedom School in Greenwood, MS. Liz Fusco, Director of the CORE Freedom Schools described the curriculum as follows: “The subjects ranged from those originally planned- Negro History, Mississippi Now andblack-white relations -to typing, foreign languages and other forms of tutoring.” (CORE pamphlet, 1964)

As Rev. Johnson reached back to childhood memories, he exuded a warmth towards the teachers. “We did math, English and Spanish,” said Rev. Johnson. “Wendy (Klein) was a Spanish speaker and I remember, ‘Me llamo, Lorenzo.’ That’s as close as we could get to Clarence in Spanish. We had a good time. We would also sing songs and share some of our experiences about those things that were important to us. We also did writing. I wanted to be a writer like Richard Wright, and I wrote about him being one of my favorite authors… We had dramatic presentations from time to time. They (the Free Southern Theater directed by John O’Neill) came to do Waiting for Godot and Ossie Davis’ play Purlie Victorius.”

The spirit of Freedom School spread beyond the classroom, which was usually in a church. “It was probably around mid-day that we would go to Freedom School,” said Rev. Johnson. “There were probably 15 or 20 of us in the session that I attended. But it was from that group that they were able to recruit some of the youngsters to be part of those marches around the courthouse.  And that’s when some of us were arrested. We also went with some of them (the northern volunteers) to do voter registration work. We would watch as they would interview people, talking about the importance of being registered voters. We would accompany them. They had very serious security measures to follow and I just remember feeling really great walking for the first time down the streets of my hometown with some whites, and we were holding hands. We were friends. It was just a magnificent feeling to be able to do that in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1964.”

Rev. Clarence Johnson, pastor of Mills Grove Baptist Church, Oakland, CA. Photo ftom East Bay Times at MLK Day Celebration, Jan. 12, 2017.

Rev. Johnson had one last observation that he wanted to share with me. “The thing that was important to me was that those young people who came to Greenwood that summer, even the SNCC workers (who had already been in town since 1962) were so young – 18, 19 20, 21, 22, and 23 years old.  The youths who came put their lives on the line to create opportunity for us to go to school and to get jobs and to be able to buy homes.” He added, “I was in Greenwood just this past July and to see all the billboard with African Americans who are running for various kinds of elected office.  I went to Walgrens and there was a young African American woman, 18 or 19 years old, and she was the cashier there, doing a magnificent job.  But in 1963, ’64, ’65 that was not possible…Things have changed tremendously but Mississippi is still at the bottom in terms of economics. They have a gerrymandered legislature. There has to be some work done there. We have to tip our hats to those who were courageous enough to put their lives on the time at such a young age like Bob Moses.”

Conclusion

What does the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 mean for us today as we face an election that could return a racist, misogynist authoritarian to the White House?  Trump and the rightwing’s leaked “Plan 2025” spells out Trump’s threat to retaliate against government officials who opposed him, put independent federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and others under presidential control, and deploy the U.S. military to stifle mass protests under the Insurrection Act. Everything about this moment cries out for bold intervention just as SNCC knew they had to do in 1963.  We must assess what it would take to change the equation in battleground states that were won narrowly by Biden in 2020 and which could easily fall back to Trump if progressive voter turnout is low. We must have sufficient numbers of election monitors to secure a fair election. And we must provide counseling and education on reproductive rights to combat continued attempts to make the federal ban on abortion even more punitive.

Mileston MS Teacher, Daisy Lewis, secty of SCLC & MFDP addressing precinct representatives in Good Hope Baptist church to elect delegates to the state convention in Jackson. Image from SNCC Digital Gateway.

There is no single organization on the current scene that is positioned to fulfill SNCC’s role, i.e., rally support from progressive allies, build a fundraising effort, recruit and train volunteers, find host families, and carry out a sophisticated strategy that employed multiple programmatic aspects.  But there are several national organizations and state-based groups which are concerned about maximizing voter registration, voter education, and turnout in the battleground states. Many of them have recruited volunteers to join their field operations in past elections.  But 2024 will be different because the stakes are so much higher and the MAGA forces are determined to deter voters from going to the polls.  We need to scale up to meet the massive challenge of registering new voters in the face of voter suppression laws. We need to  motivate people to vote, especially younger people whose politics are progressive but who also feel that Biden has betrayed them on key issues. Nor can we afford a dip in voter turnout among African Americans who have been consistently the most progressive segment of the electorate. With the MAGA right-wingers now unabashed followers of white Christian nationalism (Speaker Mike Johnson flies the New Apostolic Reformation  flag outside his office), this election will determine if we will live in a multiracial democracy or under an authoritarian, white supremacist regime. It’s time to get busy.

There are several national groups active in the field from Black Voters Matter, Progressive Turnout Project, Seed the Vote, Swing Left and others. Several national organizations and coalitions such as the Working Families Party and People’s Action have state-based organizing and they run campaigns throughout the year, not just at election time. Lastly, there are groups such as House Majority Forward that are affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Several organizations focus on expanding the growing Latinx and Asian Pacific American vote.  The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, League of United Latin American Citizens,  Voto Latino, and Mi Familia Vota all run non-partisan voter registration drives in Latinx communities.  The Asian Pacific Islander American Vote and AAPI Civic Engagement Fund support voter education and registration activities in diverse APA communities. The Native Voter Fund via the Movement Voter Project directs funds towards Native American voter mobilization efforts in Arizona, Alaska, and Montana.

There is no shortage of efforts that conduct voter engagement work. Having them issue the kind of urgent call that came from SNCC in 1963 will be critical in growing the volunteer force needed to enlarge the electorate, educate them to become life-long progressive voters, and deliver victories on election day.  It is the spirit of moral courage and steely determination that characterized Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964 that should inspire us today.

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Author’s Bio:  Eddie Wong is a longtime political activist, filmmaker and photographer in the Asian American Movement.

Featured Image:

Volunteers prepare to journey from Oxford, OH to Mississippi, June 1964. Photo by Steve Schaprio via Miami Art Museum

 Additional Resources:  For more information about the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Summer

https://www.crmvet.org/  Civil Rights Movement Archive by Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement

https://snccdigital.org/ – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Digital Archive.

1 Comments

  1. Clarence L. Johnson on November 13, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    Congratulations to author Eddie Wong on a very well written article on the impact of the Mississippi Freedom Schools during the Summer of 1964. The courage shown by those who participated in this worthy cause is to be celebrated in 2023-2024. The March toward freedom, justice and equality for ALL continues…and lessons learned are reminders that movement toward a more perfect union in this democracy still requires that stakeholders in democracy must “Keep on Keeping On!” With profound gratitude…I remain sincerely, Clarence



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