Civil Rights and Protests

Race Riots

What was Freedom Summer?

Freedom Summer 1964 was an intensive voter registration project in the state of Mississippi, initially started by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist Robert Moses in 1961.

As a part of a larger effort launched by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC, the goal was to increase the number of African-American voters in the South. The project was designed to draw the nation’s attention to the violent oppression faced by African Americans in Mississippi when they attempted to exercise their constitutional rights and develop a grass-roots freedom movement that could be sustained after student activists departed the state.

By August 4, 1964, however, four people were killed, eighty were beaten, and thousands had been arrested; in addition, sixty-seven churches, homes, and businesses were set ablaze or bombed. Freedom Summer attracted more than a thousand volunteers, the majority of whom were affluent white Northern college students. Training sessions attempted to prepare them to register African-American voters, teach literacy and civics at Freedom Schools, and promote the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s challenge to the all-white Democratic delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City that August. The efforts of the volunteers and subsequent refusal of local registrars to accept registrants’ applications created momentum for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Freedom Summer marked one of the last key interracial civil rights efforts of the 1960s.


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