Freedom Summer, 50 Years Later

Freedom Summer Activists in 1964.

Freedom Summer Activists in 1964.

In June 1964, fifty years ago this summer, activists from across the country traveled to Mississippi to help register black voters. Mississippi, like many other states at the time, was notorious for using various laws and intimidation tactics to keep black people from voting. The Freedom Summer project was intended to fight that racism. For the activists, many well-off, Northern college students, it was a life changing experience, and their efforts ended up helping to change the course of the state and ultimately, the country.

Today, so many years later, much has changed, but unfortunately, much persecution still exists. New voter ID laws, like the laws that the activists of Freedom Summer struggled against,  are particularly damaging to poor black people. Mississippi has also become one of the battleground states in another civil rights struggle, the gay rights movement.

In light of these contemporary struggles, many are looking back at the summer of 1964 as a reminder of the work and sacrifice of so many. PBS is airing a special program on the events of Freedom Summer, while the state of Mississippi itself is examining its own history via a special exhibit at the state archives that features photographs, articles, and sets that recreate the Freedom Summer experience. Many of the people involved in Freedom Summer are still alive today, and only just now getting a chance to tell their stories.

It’s easy to think that momentous movements like Freedom Summer happened in another time, another world even.  But it was truly not that long ago that young people were fighting, and sometimes even dying, for seemingly self-evident rights.

To learn more the events of Freedom Summer, and the people who risked their lives for equality and the right to vote, please check out Freedom Summer by David Aretha (ISBN # 978-1-59935-059-2) from your local library or purchase it from it from Morgan Reynolds Publishing. For more about that era and the struggle for equal rights, from the murder of Emmett Till to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and beyond, please see Morgan Reynolds’ acclaimed Civil Rights Movement series, which currently features thirteen titles, each telling an important story of this key period in American history.

-Josh Barrer

Associate Editor


Published in: on June 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment