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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 07/30/14
    Episode #39
    Freedom Summer organizers wanted to identify the many other areas that needed attention.
  • Air date 07/29/14
    Episode #38
    Hollis Watkins credits his father for the courage to put his life on the line in order to register voters.
  • Air date 07/28/14
    Episode #37
    The stress of Freedom Summer took a toll on the volunteers and the staff.
  • Air date 07/25/14
    Episode #36
    One of the Freedom Summer organizers, David Dennis was in an auto accident one night near Pearl, Mississippi.
  • Air date 07/24/15
    Episode #35
    Freedom Summer organizer Hollis Watkins never doubted his efforts—even when he was in jail.
  • Air date 07/23/14
    Episode #34
    One night when his car broke down between Hattiesburg and Jackson, David Dennis realized just how precarious his situation was.
  • Air date 07/22/14
    Episode #33
    Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the local people who were active in voter registration.
  • Air date 07/21/14
    Episode #32
    Local people remained in Mississippi and continued the civil rights work.
  • Air date 07/18/14
    Episode #31
    Living locally became a big part of the mission for Freedom Summer volunteers.