Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

by Michael Edmonds

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Overview

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader documents the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, when SNCC and CORE workers and volunteers arrived in the Deep South to register voters and teach non-violence, and more than 60,000 black Mississippians risked everything to overturn a system that had brutally exploited them.

In the 44 original documents in this anthology, you’ll read their letters, eavesdrop on their meetings, shudder at their suffering, and admire their courage. You’ll witness the final hours of three workers murdered on the project’s first day, hear testimony by black residents who bravely stood up to police torture and Klan firebombs, and watch the liberal establishment betray them.

These vivid primary sources, collected by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provide both first-hand accounts of this astounding grassroots struggle as well as a broader understanding of the Civil Rights movement.

The selected documents are among the 25,000 pages about the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The manuscripts were collected in the mid-1960s, at a time when few other institutions were interested in saving the stories of common people in McComb or Ruleville, Mississippi. Most have never been published before.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780870206788
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society
Publication date: 05/30/2014
Edition description: 1
Pages: 250
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Michael Edmonds is Deputy Director of the Library–Archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society and curator of its online collection of 25,000 historical documents about Freedom Summer. A 1976 graduate of Harvard University, he earned an MS degree at Simmons College in 1979 and taught part-time at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The author of several articles and books, Edmonds has won national awards from the American Folklore Society and the American Association for State and Local History.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Map of Office Locations during Freedom Summer xviii

Abbreviations xix

1 Before Freedom Summer 1

"A Guide to Mississippi," Spring 1964 Journalist Jerry DeMuth's introduction to life in the heart of the segregated South 2

"Rugged, Ragged 'Snick1: What It Is and What It Does" A portrait of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 18

Fannie Lou Hamer Deposition A personal account of the torture of Delta women for using whites-only facilities 25

SNCC Biography: Bob Moses A short profile of the director of the Freedom Summer project 29

Notes on Biography of Dave Dennis An informal resume of CORE's director of operations in Mississippi 31

2 Debates, Preparations, Training 35

Memo to SNCC Executive Committee, September 1963 Bob Moses proposes the Freedom Summer project 37

Notes on Mississippi Summary of the 1963 Freedom Vote and SNCC's November 14-IS, 1963. staff meeting 40

Dear Friend COFO recruits supporters and volunteers 45

Application to Work on the Freedom Summer Project Andrew Goodman's volunteer application, March 1964 47

Mississippi Summer Project Launched SNCC announces Freedom Summer to the press, March 20,1964 48

Letter from Volunteer Training in Oxford, Ohio Joel Bernard writes home on June 25, 1964, from Freedom Summer orientation 50

Possible Role-Playing Situations Volunteers prepare to meet hostile conditions in Mississippi 53

Security Handbook Manual for volunteers describing how to face the summers dangers 56

Nonviolence: Two Training Documents Volunteers are introduced to the theory and practice of nonviolence 59

3 pposition and Violence 65

Mississippi Readies Laws for Freedom Summer Bills introduced in the Mississippi legislature to thwart Freedom Summer, June 1964 67

The Klan Ledger The Klan reacts to Freedom Summer, September 1964 72

The Citizens' Council: A History The head of the White Citizens' Councils explains their history and mission 80

Summary of Major Points in Testimony by Citizens of Mississippi to Panel of Tune 8,1964 Black Mississippians describe the intimidation and harassment they faced 86

"Road to Mississippi" Journalist Louis Fornax's haunting account of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner on June 21,1964 91

Memo to Parents of Mississippi Summer Volunteers, Late Tune 1964 Bob Moses writes to parents of volunteers after the murders 96

Selected Hate Mail Vicious correspondence sent to staff and families by racist opponents of Freedom Summer 101

Notes and Letter from Neshoba County, August 15-22, 1964 A volunteer moves to the town where the three murdered men worked 104

4 Voter Registration 111

Negro Voters by District and County, 1963 Percentages of African Americans registered to vote in Mississippi 113

Voter Registration Summer Prospects COFO's instructions for voter registration volunteers, June 1964 116

Techniques for Field Work: Voter Registration COFO instructs volunteers how to canvass door to door 118

Sworn Written Application for Registration Application to register to vote in Mississippi 120

What Were We There To Do? Two ministers describe voter registration work in Hattiesburg 122

Dear Dad Robert Feinglass describes a typical day canvassing for voters in Holly Springs 124

Dear Mom and Dad Volunteer Ellen Lake describes what voting means to her Gulfport neighbors 127

To Overcome Fear SNCC worker Charles McLaurin takes local residents to the courthouse for the first time 131

5 Freedom Schools 135

Some Notes on Education SNCC's Charlie Cobb envisions a new kind of schooling for Mississippi's youth 137

Profiles of Typical Freedom Schools: Hattiesburg, Meridian, Holly Springs, and Ruleville, Spring 1964 COFO describes how four towns are preparing to host Freedom Schools 141

Freedom School Curriculum Outline An overview of the curriculum taught in Freedom Schools 145

Curriculum Part II, Unit 1: Comparison of Students' Reality with Others Freedom School teachers use students' lives to foster critical thinking 147

Curriculum Part II, Unit 6: Material Things and Soul Things Freedom School teachers make their students ask big questions 151

Dear Family and Friends Teacher Cornelia Mack describes Freedom School students and classes 156

Freedom Schools in Mississippi, September 1964 Liz Fusco, coordinator of the Freedom Schools, evaluates their results 163

6 The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party 173

Mississippi Freedom Candidates Vie program of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and its candidates 175

Notes on the Democratic National Convention Challenge The Reverend Charles Sherrod's account of the MFDP's challenge to racist delegates at the Democratic National Convention 180

Instructions for the Freedom Vote and Regular Election How the MFDP's parallel "Freedom Election," October 31 -November 2, 1964, was run 187

Congressional Challenge Fact Sheet The MFDP challenges Mississippi's all-white congressional representatives 190

7 After Freedom Summer 193

Affidavits of Violence in August-September 1964 Brutality in McComb after Northern volunteers and reporters go home 195

COFO Program, Winter 1964-Spring 1965 COFO's plan to continue Freedom Summer initiatives through spring 1965 199

"These Are the Questions" SNCC's executive secretary James Fonnan reflects on the organization's past and its future, in November 1964 201

Afterword: Freedom Summer Documents 209

Acknowledgments 224

Sources 225

Index 231

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