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Freedom Summer 1964

By the mid twentieth century, Mississippi’s African Americans had suffered from nearly 75 years of Jim Crow discrimination. In order to break open the closed society and improve their lives, they needed to be able to vote. In the summer of 1964, hundreds of young white volunteers converged in Mississippi for a 10-week voter registration campaign. The results of their efforts still reverberate.

MPB’s Freedom Summer series and documentary are part of a partnership with the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC). The program is financially assisted by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the MHC.

The series features interviews with individuals who were active in civil rights work that summer. The one-minute PSAs cover topics from the African-Americans struggle to register to vote, to the idea for and organization of the Freedom Summer, to the Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party’s challenge in Atlantic City.

Hollis Watkins of Jackson, Mississippi, who helped organize Freedom Summer, remembers warning the young summer volunteers at their training session in Ohio. “If you’re coming to Mississippi, you must know that you should be prepared to be beaten, to go to jail, and to be killed.”

“This series will reacquaint older Mississippians with their history and simultaneously inform younger Mississippians with stories they may not know,” said Edie Greene, MPB producer of the PSA series. “Since I’m not from Mississippi, I didn’t study its history in school. This has been an amazing story to learn. I am honored to be the producer.”

On Aug. 21, MPB will culminate its Freedom Summer commemoration with the original documentary “1964: The Fight for a Right,” airing at 7 p.m. on MPB TV.

  • Air date 07/14/14
    Episode #27
    The new Civil Rights Law, enacted that July, did not include anything about voting, so the Freedom Summer volunteers pressed harder.
  • Air date 07/11/14
    Episode #26
    When he spoke to potential voters, Hollis Watkins tried to lay out the truth.
  • Air date 07/10/14
    Episode #25
    The state watched as President Johnson signed the new Civil Rights Act on July 2.
  • Air date 07/09/14
    Episode #24
    Before his murder, Mickey Schwerner trained his young volunteers in non-violence.
  • Air date 07/08/14
    Episode #23
    In later years, Roscoe Jones heard from an informant about what happened on the night Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were murdered.
  • Air date 07/07/14
    Episode #22
    Folk singer and activist Pete Seeger was performing in Meridian August 2, 1964.
  • Air date 07/03/14
    Episode #21
    With two white New Yorkers missing, America took notice.
  • Air date 07/02/14
    Episode #20
    When Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman went missing, additional volunteers were still training in Oxford, Ohio.
  • Air date 07/01/14
    Episode #19
    The three young men who went to investigate the burned church never checked back in with their office, as was the procedure.