This course examines the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project, one of the most powerful moments in civil rights history. We will utilize film, music, primary sources, interactive activities and secondary texts to bring this dramatic moment, widely known as “Freedom Summer,” to life.
In 1964, civil rights organizations, citizens of Mississippi and student volunteers from across the country launched a 10-week campaign to challenge segregation in one of the nation’s most racially oppressive and violent states. They registered African American voters who had been denied the right to vote, established Freedom Schools, organized Freedom Votes and created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, dedicated to unseating the whites-only Mississippi delegation for the Democratic National Convention of 1964. It was a strategic interracial experiment that rocked the nation and fundamentally challenged white supremacy in the South. We will examine its impact, contradictions and rich legacy.
Freedom Summer challenges conventional narratives and simplistic popular understandings of civil rights that focus almost exclusively on charismatic male leadership; integration and voting; uncomplicated notions of American democracy; and non-violence.
Readings will include the following:
• Payne, Charles M. I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle.
• Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi.
• Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance: A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power,
• Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision
Students will be able to:
• identify and critique the key strategies and programs of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project 1964
• place Freedom Summer 1964 in the broader historical, national and international contexts
• deconstruct central concepts such as freedom, civil rights, democracy, race, equality, gender, citizenship and non-violence
• identify many of the myths surrounding the civil rights movement and contemplate how these myths function politically
• effectively evaluate historical and contemporary visual media and written sources
Prerequisites: High school students (open to all)