Stanford University Event: Mississippi Freedom Summer Revisited

15 October, 2014

The meaning and impact of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer through the eyes of four individuals, who observed it closely or were participants: Doug McAdam, Claiborne Carson, Marshall Ganz, and Mary King.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer, one of the most consequential moments in the history of the civil rights movement. This issue of Sandstone & Tile chronicles the history of that pivotal project and the roles and recollections of Stanford participants.

In June 1964, more than a thousand collegeaged, primarily white Northerners joined thousands of mostly black civil rights workers in Mississippi and Louisiana in a massive drive to register African American voters. Over the 10 weeks of the project, the volunteers were victims of random shootings, more than 1,600 arrests, 80 serious beatings, and eight deaths. Thirty-seven churches and 30 homes and businesses were bombed or burned. It is well known that the violence was perpetrated by white racist vigilantes and terror groups, often organized by the Ku Klux Klan in collusion with local law enforcement agencies.

In spite of the violence, Freedom Summer volunteers taught in 38 Freedom Schools and assisted the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which challenged the all-white party at the 1964 Democratic Convention. Although Freedom Summer did not succeed in registering many new voters, it brought
nationwide attention to the injustices that African Americans had endured, and it profoundly changed the lives of those who participated.

In April 2014, the society and Continuing Studies co-sponsored a program to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer. The program brought together four committed activists and scholars—some who participated in Freedom Summer in 1964 and others who have studied, analyzed, and written eloquently about it—Douglas McAdam, Clayborne Carson, Marshall Ganz, and Mary Elizabeth King. This article, Mississippi Freedom Summer: 50 Years Later Legacies, Lessons, and Stanford Reflections (from the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Sandstone & Tile), has been adapted from their remarks.