50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

Monday, June 23, 2014

A campaign in Mississippi in June 1964 aimed to register as many African-American voters as possible in the state. Peniel Joseph, professor of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University and author of Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama (Basic Books, 2010), talks about the goals, violence, and legacy of the Freedom Summer project. We take your calls remembering this season 50 years ago. We're also joined by David Goodman, brother of Andrew Goodman and founder of the Andrew Goodman Foundation.


Peniel Joseph

Comments [14]

Dave From NorthEast Bronx

The Jewish experience in America v. the black experience in America has no comparison. Period!

Jun. 23 2014 01:44 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


Jews were never a majority anywhere. But most didn't become basketball stars, but sought to become lawyers and that is how they got their rights and rights for others as well, by becoming lawyers to fight in the courts.

Jun. 23 2014 12:04 PM
Clarence Taylor from West Orange

While the media commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of important events in the civil rights movement, no one has focused on the fiftieth anniversary of the largest civil rights protest in the nation's history. Fifty years ago the New York City School Boycott took place. The Committee for Integrated Schools, led by the Rev. Milton A. Galamison, pastor of Siloam Presbyterian in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bayard Rustin, organized a one-day boycott of New York City public schools to force the New York City Board of Education to come up with a plan and timetable to integrate the New York City school system. Over 460,000 students did not attend school on the day of the boycott, making it the largest civil rights demonstration during the civil rights movement. But the event does not even get a mention in the press, radio or television.

Sadly, the only attention given to the civil rights movement is on southern campaigns. This southern paradigm has created the popular but false notion that the movement took place exclusively the south and that racism was just a southern affair. Hopefully, one day we will move away from the simplistic conventional image of the civil rights movement and try to gain a better understanding of this important national social protest movement.

Jun. 23 2014 12:02 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


In the final analysis, everyone has to fight their own fights for rights. Can't rely on whites and liberal jews to do most of your fighting for you. I grew up in the Housing Projects in the 1950s. Nobody fought for me. I had to survive that horror on my own by myself. An old Jewish sage once spouted: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?"

Jun. 23 2014 12:02 PM
Dave From NorthEast Bronx

@Jgarbuz from Queens
Black people in high places will never prevent white racist Republicans from stop trying to restrict blacks and other minorities voting access, especially with the Supreme Court giving them the green light. This will only increase as the minority population increases and white diminishes.

Jun. 23 2014 11:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


There's a black Democratic president now, in case you haven't noticed. He can go down and march now if he wants to.

Jun. 23 2014 11:34 AM
Steven Levine from Brooklyn

I have always been impressed by the honesty,courage and wisdom of Rita Schwerner. Upon learning that that her husband along with Chaney and Goodman were missing 50 years ago, she told the media that the only reason they were down in Mississippi was because Schwerner and Goodman were northern whites and that if it were Chaney alone, an African-American, they would not be in Mississippi. To learn more about Freedom Summer, you can check out the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives Freedom curriculum at

Jun. 23 2014 11:34 AM
john from office

Heroic white people! Patting each other on the back.

Jun. 23 2014 11:30 AM
Dave From NorthEast Bronx

Looking ahead, we need another freedom summer or freedom summers with all the renewed efforts to restrict votering (voter ID etc) now sweeping across the south and midwest.

Jun. 23 2014 11:21 AM
conasta from nyc

what a promo push for nbc and comcast soon to monopolize our internet and cable.

Jun. 23 2014 11:15 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I appreciate the current caller's giving the no's. of civil rights workers killed & jailed & the buildings destroyed. Let me guess: the other 3 who were killed were black.

Jun. 23 2014 11:13 AM
Harlem Henry from Harlem

Highly recommend this book on the era:

We Will Shoot Back
Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement
Akinyele Omowale Umoja

Subjects: History, Race & Ethnicity, African-American Studies

Winner of the 2014 Anna Julia Cooper-CLR James Book Award presented by the National Council of Black Studies
In We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, Akinyele Omowale Umoja argues that armed resistance was critical to the Southern freedom struggle and the dismantling of segregation and Black disenfranchisement. Intimidation and fear were central to the system of oppression in most of the Deep South. To overcome the system of segregation, Black people had to overcome fear to present a significant challenge to White domination. As the civil rights movement developed, armed self-defense and resistance became a significant means by which the descendants of enslaved Africans overturned fear and intimidation and developed different political and social relationships between Black and White Mississippians.

This riveting historical narrative reconstructs the armed resistance of Black activists, their challenge of racist terrorism, and their fight for human rights.

Jun. 23 2014 11:09 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I remember that summer in Brooklyn College very well. It was mostly liberal Jewish kids who wanted to go down south to help blacks get their rights. No coincidence that 2 of the 3 killed were young, idealistic, liberal Jewish civil rights workers.

Jun. 23 2014 10:51 AM from New York New York

Hi! I'm hoping to call in during your Freedom Summer segment today--I was a cub reporter for the Boston Globe that summer, traveling all around Mississippi with well-known reporters David Halberstam, Nick Von Hoffman, and more.

Here's a picture of when the car carrying the three civil rights workers was found near Philadelphia:

I went south with a Life reporter/photographer team. Greenville, in the Delta south of Memphis, had been a hot spot, so we went there first. The day we arrived, Sunday June 21, we heard that three civil rights workers were missing in Philadelphia, near the Alabama border.

We rushed over to Philadelphia, a dusty Mississippi town right out of a Faulkner novel. A posse of FBI men arrived on Monday, but the civil rights workers, Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were still missing. Tuesday word came that Mickey Schwerner's Ford station wagon had been found in a swamp a few miles from town. Reporters, sheriff's deputies, and white locals gathered on a small bridge over a branch of the Bogue Chitto swamp.

Under a lowering grey sky, spitting occasional rain, we could see the charred, half-sunken remains of the once-blue car: it looked like it had taken a direct hit from a lighting bolt.

The whole summer made a profound impression on me, leaving me with an abiding belief in human equality. Of the young SNCC staffers I most admired John Lewis, a totally down-to-earth, serious, modest man.

Martin Luther King came through on a whirlwind tour. Black Mississippians responded to his presence as if he were Moses, a spiritual leader of Biblical stature.

I'm hoping to get a chance to comment on the air!! 50 years--hard to believe: we've made progress, but there's still so far to go!!

Michael Lydon

Jun. 23 2014 09:46 AM

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