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Training for Freedom

Freedom Summer Background Information

  • Freedom Summer, also known as the Mississippi Summer Project, was a 1964 voter registration drive with the goal of increasing African American voter registration in Mississippi.
  • Jim Crow laws enacted at the end of the Reconstruction period, such as grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and poll taxes effectively disenfranchised African American voters, directly contradicting the 15th Amendment.
  • Once these laws were in effect, the number of African Americans registered to vote significantly decreased, which directly led to an increase in institutionalized racism.
  • By 1964, the approximation of registered black voters dwindled down to 2000, which was around 7% of the state’s eligible black voting population.
  • As a result, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee chose Mississippi as the place to challenge the Jim Crow voting laws.
  • Over 700 volunteers, most of whom were white, joined African Americans to fight for voting rights.
  • They were met with violent resistance from the Ku Klux Klan, and law enforcement.
  • The murders of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney made the volunteers scared to go to Mississippi, but none of them left the program.
  • News coverage of the events drew international attention to the Civil Rights movement.
  • The momentum gained by the coverage, eventually led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Grade Level: 9-12

Ohio’s Learning Standards: Social Studies, American History 27

Resources: Freedom Summer Background Information PDF file.