Freedom Summer was the name given to the 1964
voter registration project in Mississippi
. It was actually part of a larger effort headed up by civil rights
groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality
(CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee
). In 1963
, about a hundred college students assisted local agencies in registering voters. In 1964, Freedom Summer, was a much expanded voter registration project.
On June 15, 1964, the first three hundred students arrived in Mississippi. The next day, two of the white students, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, and a local African American, James Chaney, disappeared. The FBI recovered their bodies about six weeks later in an earthen dam. The deputy sheriff of the county and 16 others, all Ku Klux Klan members, were indicted for the crime, seven were convicted. For more on this aspect, I recommend Mississippi Burning
Anyway, back to Freedom Summer, the result of the murders had an obvious adverse effect on the project. The volunteers were surrounded by threats and acts of violence, they resented the lack of federal protection for their efforts and the slowness of the investigation. There was also growing distrust between some of the white and black volunteers regarding the public outcry over the disappearance. Would it have been the same if all of the missing were black?
The project did manage to establish about fifty "Freedom Schools" that were charged with carrying on the community organization efforts. Due to scare tactics and more threats of violence, these "Freedom Schools" managed to register only about twelve hundred African American voters. The project was further hampered in August when, with the ok of party liberals and civil rights leaders, the Democratic National Convention refused to seat a protest slate of delegates elected through Mississippi's Freedom Democratic Party.
In retrospect, the events of Freedom Summer managed to deepen the division between those involved in the civil rights movement who believed in integration and nonviolence and others, especially young African Americans, who questioned whether racial equality could be attained by peaceful means. Although the civil rights movement continued to be active in 1964 and remains so to this day, the spirit of solidarity and partnership that it once embraced was deeply wounded.