Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

by Michael Edmonds
Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

by Michael Edmonds


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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: 9780870206795
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society
Publication date: 05/23/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 243
File size: 2 MB

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Director of the Library–Archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society and curator of its online collection of 25,000 historical documents about Freedom Summer.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

Contents Introduction Map of Office Locations during Freedom Summer Abbreviations Chapter 1. Before Freedom Summer “A Guide to Mississippi,” Spring 1964 / Journalist Jerry DeMuth’s introduction to life in the heart of the segregated South “Rugged, Ragged ‘Snick’: What It Is and What It Does” / A portrait of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Fannie Lou Hamer Deposition / A personal account of the torture of Delta women for using whites-only facilities SNCC Biography: Bob Moses / A short profile of the director of the Freedom Summer project Notes on Biography of Dave Dennis / An informal résumé of CORE’s director of operations in Mississippi Chapter 2. Debates, Preparations, Training Memo to SNCC Executive Committee, September 1963 / Bob Moses proposes the Freedom Summer project Notes on Mississippi / Summary of the 1963 Freedom Vote and SNCC’s November 14–18, 1963, staff meeting Dear Friend / COFO recruits supporters and volunteers Application to Work on the Freedom Summer Project / Andrew Goodman’s volunteer application, March 1964 Mississippi Summer Project Launched / SNCC announces Freedom Summer to the press, March 20, 1964 Letter from Volunteer Training in Oxford, Ohio / Joel Bernard writes home on June 25, 1964, from Freedom Summer orientation Possible Role-Playing Situations / Volunteers prepare to meet hostile conditions in Mississippi Security Handbook / Manual for volunteers describing how to face the summer’s dangers Nonviolence: Two Training Documents / Volunteers are introduced to the theory and practice of nonviolence Chapter 3. Opposition and Violence Mississippi Readies Laws for Freedom Summer / Bills introduced in the Mississippi legislature to thwart Freedom Summer, June 1964 The Klan Ledger / The Klan reacts to Freedom Summer, September 1964 The Citizens’ Council: A History / The head of the White Citizens’ Councils explains their history and mission Summary of Major Points in Testimony by Citizens of Mississippi to Panel of June 8, 1964 / Black Mississippians describe the intimidation and harassment they faced “Road to Mississippi” / Journalist Louis Lomax’s haunting account of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964 Memo to Parents of Mississippi Summer Volunteers, Late June 1964 / Bob Moses writes to parents of volunteers after the murders Selected Hate Mail / Vicious correspondence sent to staff and families by racist opponents of Freedom Summer Notes and Letter from Neshoba County, August 15–22, 1964 / A volunteer moves to the town where the three murdered men worked Chapter 4. Voter Registration Negro Voters by District and County, 1963 / Percentages of African Americans registered to vote in Mississippi Voter Registration Summer Prospects / COFO’s instructions for voter registration volunteers, June 1964 Techniques for Field Work: Voter Registration / COFO instructs volunteers how to canvass door to door Sworn Written Application for Registration / Application to register to vote in Mississippi What Were We There To Do? / Two ministers describe voter registration work in Hattiesburg Dear Dad / Robert Feinglass describes a typical day canvassing for voters in Holly Springs Dear Mom and Dad / Volunteer Ellen Lake describes what voting means to her Gulfport neighbors To Overcome Fear / SNCC worker Charles McLaurin takes local residents to the courthouse for the first time Chapter 5. Freedom Schools Some Notes on Education / SNCC’s Charlie Cobb envisions a new kind of schooling for Mississippi’s youth Profiles of Typical Freedom Schools: Hattiesburg, Meridian, Holly Springs, and Ruleville, Spring 1964 / COFO describes how four towns are preparing to host Freedom Schools Freedom School Curriculum Outline / An overview of the curriculum taught in Freedom Schools Curriculum Part II, Unit 1: Comparison of Students’ Reality with Others / Freedom School teachers use students’ lives to foster critical thinking Curriculum Part II, Unit 6: Material Things and Soul Things / Freedom School teachers make their students ask big questions Dear Family and Friends / Teacher Cornelia Mack describes Freedom School students and classes Freedom Schools in Mississippi, September 1964 / Liz Fusco, coordinator of the Freedom Schools, evaluates their results Chapter 6. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Mississippi Freedom Candidates / The program of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and its candidates 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 Instructions for the Freedom Vote and Regular Election / How the MFDP’s parallel “Freedom Election,” October 31–November 2, 1964, was run Congressional Challenge Fact Sheet / The MFDP challenges Mississippi’s all-white congressional representatives Chapter 7. After Freedom Summer Affidavits of Violence in August–September 1964 / Brutality in McComb after Northern volunteers and reporters go home COFO Program, Winter 1964–Spring 1965 / COFO’s plan to continue Freedom Summer initiatives through spring 1965 “These Are the Questions” / SNCC’s executive secretary James Forman reflects on the organization’s past and its future in November 1964 Afterword: Freedom Summer Documents Acknowledgments Sources Index
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