Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

3.5 7
by Bruce Watson
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A majestic history of the summer of '64, which forever changed race relations in America

In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers' shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended,

Overview

A majestic history of the summer of '64, which forever changed race relations in America

In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers' shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom.

This remarkable chapter in American history, the basis for the controversial film Mississippi Burning, is now the subject of Bruce Watson's thoughtful and riveting historical narrative. Using in- depth interviews with participants and residents, Watson brilliantly captures the tottering legacy of Jim Crow in Mississippi and the chaos that brought such national figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger to the state. Freedom Summer presents finely rendered portraits of the courageous black citizens-and Northern volunteers-who refused to be intimidated in their struggle for justice, and the white Mississippians who would kill to protect a dying way of life. Few books have provided such an intimate look at race relations during the deadliest days of the Civil Rights movement, and Freedom Summer will appeal to readers of Taylor Branch and Doug Blackmon.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this mesmerizing history, Watson (Sacco and Vanzetti) revisits the blistering summer of 1964 when about 700 volunteers arrived in Mississippi to agitate for civil rights and endured horrific harassment, intimidation, and persecution from racist state and private forces. The largely white, college student volunteers and the largely black trainers and organizers, SNCC veterans of previous campaigns, were fed and sheltered by the impoverished black community members they had come to serve and secure suffrage for. Their path was two-pronged: the Freedom School’s challenge to a “power structure... that confined Negro education to 'learning to stay in your place’ ” and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s challenge to Mississippi’s all-white delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Familiar figures (e.g., Lyndon B. Johnson, Stokely Carmichael, Fannie Lou Hamer) take the stage, but Watson’s dramatic center belongs to four “ordinary” volunteers, whose experiences he portrays with resonant detail. The murdered Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner cast shadows over all, haunting Watson’s account of how the volunteers, organizers, and the black Mississippians who dared seek political expression “lifted and revived the trampled dream of democracy.” (June)
Dwight Garner
Mr. Watson's book derives its power—at its best, it is the literary equivalent of a hot light bulb dangling from a low ceiling—from its narrow focus. Freedom Summer is about the more than 700 college students who, in the summer of 1964, under the supervision of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, risked their lives to travel to Mississippi to register black voters and open schools…The story of these months has been told before, but rarely this viscerally.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Blow-by-blow account of the ghastly reception given the Freedom Summer volunteers who attempted to register black voters in Mississippi in 1964. Journalist Watson (Sacco and Vanzetti, 2007, etc.) creates a complete picture of this decisive summer, from the makeup of the young students who risked their lives to volunteer to a comprehensive portrait of a nation on the brink of wrenching change in race relations. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had recruited across college campuses legions of white and black students eager to break open the deeply segregated "closed society" of Mississippi, with its entrenched obstacles to black voting. Trained briefly in Ohio and bused down to Mississippi by late June, the young, idealistic volunteers were well-informed about the white hostility and customary savagery perpetrated against blacks that they would face. However, the largely middle-class, well-educated students were not prepared for the scenes of poverty and destitution they encountered in black communities throughout the South. The disappearance in late June of three SNCC volunteers haunted their work that summer, and the incident serves as the book's suspenseful propulsion. The discovery of their remains in early August-after an extended FBI hunt and national outcry-reinforced rather than deterred the volunteers' conviction. Watson does a fine job portraying key participants, such as SNCC leaders Bob Moses and Fannie Lou Hamer, as well as less-well-known events at the subsequent Atlantic City Democratic Convention in mid-August, where the 67 black Freedom Democrats of Mississippi insisted on being heard. Engaging but occasionally longwinded, Watson's work is competentlyresearched and contextually rich. A moving record of the power of idealism. Agent: Jeff Kleinman/Folio Literary Management
From the Publisher
"Here is a past of fear and hate, but also of courage and bravery, all given a narrator's—a scholar's—knowing and wise documentary attention." —Robert Coles, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Children of Crisis series

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670021703
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/10/2010
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.27(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Here is a past of fear and hate, but also of courage and bravery, all given a narrator's—-a scholar's—-knowing and wise documentary attention." —-Robert Coles, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Children of Crisis series

Meet the Author

Bruce Watson is an award-winning journalist whose articles have been published in Smithsonian, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, Yankee Magazine, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Freedom Summer 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is a fascinating insight into a key moment in the Civil Rights movement. When young men and women bravely traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to help African Americans register to vote in what became known as Freedom Summer. The most infamous incident of the period was the brutal assassination of three Civil Rights workers by the KKK in the town of Philadelphia. What makes this book especially gripping and worth reading in that the author was able to convince many volunteers to share their experiences, in some cases for the first time, of what they experienced. Thus, giving the reader a look behind the scenes at the hardship and extreme danger endured on a daily basis. I would definitely put this book on a must read list for anyone wanting to learn more about this period and am appreciative of their willingness to talk with the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Felt like i was reading a novel
Cody Crumb More than 1 year ago
FIRST!