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Collection Title: Koenig (Ruth) Freedom Summer Collection

Collection Number: M362

Dates: 1964 – 1994

Volume: .45 cu. ft.

Provenance: Materials in this collection were donated by Ruth Koenig in 2001.

Restrictions: Available for research use by the serious student and scholar.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

“I have a basic belief in serving others –my neighbors…
[who] are not merely those who live in close proximity to me.”
-Ruth Koenig, 1964

Ruth Koenig, occasionally known as “Ruthie,” was born in 1941 in Scotia, New York. She is the daughter of Mr. Reinhold Koenig and Mrs. Alfreda Koenig. Reinhold was a foreman and shop steward for American Locomotive Company [ALCO] and Alfreda worked in the home, volunteered at their church, and later worked as a waitress. Both parents lived in Europe during World War I; Ruth's father lived in Germany and her mother in Poland. Ruth had two brothers, an older brother named Ronald and a younger brother named Glenn who died at the age of four.

Ruth is a graduate of Scotia-Glenville High School. In 1963, she received her undergraduate degree in physical education and health from Cortland State in Cortland, New York. In 1963, at the age of 22 she moved to Shelton, Washington, where she was a physical education and health teacher at a junior high school.

The 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four young African-American girls were killed, heavily influenced Ruth. She had been accepted to participate in a church-sponsored project in an impoverished area of Los Angeles during the summer of 1964. Instead, after seeing a brochure provided by her minister, Bruce Clements, in Schenectady, New York, she decided to work with volunteers in the South during the Mississippi Summer Project.

After a brief training period in Memphis, Ruth arrived in Holly Springs, Mississippi, to begin her Freedom Summer activities. Early planning had volunteers boarding with African-American families but because of the possibility of violence other arrangements were made when possible. In Holly Springs the young men stayed in the Freedom House across from Rust College, an African-American Methodist college, and the girls were housed in Rust College dormitories. Ruth, Kathy Dahl, Harriet Tanzman, along with three African-American students, Aldine, Clare, and Ernestine, were roommates on the third floor of Rust Hall. Ruth said, “This was a safer arrangement for us and it wouldn’t jeopardize the Negro families after we were gone.”

Ruth’s primary focus during her stay in Holly Springs was working with the Freedom School and Community Center at 100 and 110 Rust Avenue. Specifically she taught recreational games and anatomy systems, worked with teen’s for a citizenship class, spoke with a women’s group, conducted research for a health survey, ran errands, and typed reports. Ruth was part of a staff of 37 volunteers at the Holly Springs project.

On August 1, 1964, Ruth left Mississippi to continue her teaching job in Washington. Ruth later returned to Mississippi in 1966 to renew old acquaintances and participate in Holly Springs civil rights activities.

In order to continue her education, Ruth moved to Eugene, Oregon, in 1966 and received her graduate degree in English and Education from the University of Oregon in 1969. After graduate school, Ruth taught for seven years at Monroe Junior High in Eugene, Oregon.

Ruth was married in 1972 to Peter Moulton and co-parented Peter’s two sons. They divorced in 1977 and did not have children of their own. In 1979 Ruth adopted an eleven-year-old girl from India, named Sharma.

Throughout her career, Ruth has worked on behalf of human rights, environmental concerns, and peace issues. She has been active in numerous foreign relief efforts including: Viet Nam, Central American relief activities since the Contra War of the 1980s, involvement in the Sanctuary Movement, and four trips to Nicaragua. On one trip to Nicaragua she assisted in rebuilding a village that had been destroyed by a hurricane. A trip to South Africa in 1987 resulted in numerous speaking engagements and participation in South African solidarity groups.

Her career has also included service as community education coordinator and environmental program coordinator for the City of Eugene, Oregon. Ruth became coordinator of community education in 1974 at Lincoln School, a school in the community’s lower income area, which served many types of individuals including elderly, single parents, and minorities. After budget cuts in community education in 1994 Koenig became coordinator of Eugene’s Stream Team working with volunteer labor of approximately four to five thousand people for water-quality improvement projects.

Materials Ruth gathered in 1964 and 1966 while in Holly Springs survived a fire when her house burned in 1985. Many of these items, although showing signs of smoke damage, are now housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Ruth currently resides in Eugene, Oregon.

Sources:

Contents of the Collection
Koenig, Ruth, e-mail interview, July 15, 2003.
Dahl, Kathleen, PhD., phone interview, 2003.
Dahl (Kathleen) Freedom Summer Collection M357
Rubin, Larry. An Oral History with Larry Rubin. vol. 11. Hattiesburg: The University of
Southern Mississippi. November 11, 1995.
Internet Sources

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of some original but primarily photocopies of materials that document the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Summer in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Included are Ruth Koenig’s journals from 1964 and 1966, photographs, correspondence, subject files, and printed materials. For the researchers convenience the collection has been divided into five series:

Series I: Photographs hold fifteen computer scans of photographs taken in Holly Springs during Freedom Summer 1964 and 1966. One photo is of Ruth demonstrating in a picket line and others are of Freedom Summer volunteers and Freedom School students.

Series II: Diaries consist of photocopies of Ruth’s diaries and notes from her experiences during Freedom Summer 1964 and another diary from her brief 1966 Holly Springs visit. Typescripts for the diaries are also included.

Series III: Correspondence comprises letters sent to, and written by, Ruth Koenig from June 9, 1964 to July 28, 1989. Of special interest is a letter personally delivered to the White House on June 9, 1964. Many letters are to Ruth after she left the Holly Springs project and contain information about the status of the project.

Series IV: Topical Subject Files contain a variety of materials such as: Freedom Summer reports, minutes, documents, songs, writings, and a political cartoon. There is also an inventory of original materials donated to the Smithsonian Institution by Ruth in 1992.

Series V: Printed Materials includes flyers, brochures, newspaper clippings, and magazine clippings. A photocopy of a Fannie Lou Hamer for Congress flyer and several published articles written by Ruth are in this series.

Other Finding Aids:

Box and Folder List
Photograph Log

Related Collections:

As a Freedom Summer volunteer, many of the Freedom Summer and Civil Rights collections are related to the Ruth Koenig Collection. Archive collections that relate directly to Ruth and her work as a volunteer with the Holly Springs project are:

M357 Dahl (Kathleen) Freedom Summer Collection
M364 Davies (Jon G.) Freedom Summer Collection
M390 Kates (Jim) Papers

Box and Folder List

Box 1  
Series I: Photographs
Folder 1 Computer Scans: Holly Springs Photographs (1964 – 1966)
   
Series II: Diaries
   
Folder 2 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: Trip to Memphis for Freedom Summer Training [Photocopy] (June 24, 1964 – July 1, 1964)
Folder 3 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: Trip to Memphis for Freedom Summer Training [Typescript 2003] (June 24, 1964 – July 1, 1964)
Folder 4 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: Memphis Training [Photocopy] (June 29, 1964 – July 3, 1964)
Folder 5 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: Memphis Training [Typescript 2003] (June 29, 1964 – July 3, 1964)
Folder 6 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: 1964 [Photocopy] (June 24, 1964 – July 1, 1964)
Folder 7 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: 1964 [Typescript 2003] (June 24, 1964 – July 1, 1964)
Folder 8 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: 1966 [Photocopy] (July 1966)
Folder 9 Ruth Koenig’s Diary: 1966 [Typescript 2003] (July 1966)
   
Series III: Correspondence
Folder 10 Correspondence: General (June 9, 1964 – July 28, 1964)
   
Series IV: Topical Subject Files
   
Folder 11 Freedom Center Contact Information (April 13, c. 1964)
Folder 12 Reports: SNCC News on Mississippi— Harassments, Intimidation, and Violence (May 26, 1964 – November 1, 1964)
Folder 13 Holly Springs Freedom Day: Minutes and Report (July 1964)
Folder 14 Freedom Registration Form (July 26, 1964)
Folder 15 Freedom Schools (c. 1964)
Folder 16 Budget/Supplies: Holly Springs Project (c. 1964)
Folder 17 “Mississippi-Summer of 1964: Troubled State, Troubled Time” Newsweek (July 13, 1964)
Folder 18 Political Cartoon (July 18, 1964)
Folder 19 “Mississippi: I – When Law Collides with Custom” The New Republic (July 25, 1964)
Folder 20 “Seeds of Freedom” Program (July 26, 1964)
Folder 21 Songs: Civil Rights (c. 1964)
Folder 22 “Report on Selma” by Reverend Fritz Hull and Dr. Robert Scandrett (April 4, 1965)
Folder 23 SNCC March on Selma Minutes (March 7, 1965)
Folder 24 Hammermill Paper Company Boycott (March 31, 1965)
Folder 25 Lampoon of NAACP Membership Application (June 9, 1967)
Folder 26 “Life in Mississippi: An Interview with Fannie Lou Hamer” CALC Report (October 1988)
Folder 27 Smithsonian Donation: Letter to Bernice Johnson Reagon and Inventory of Materials Sent to Smithsonian (January 2, 1992)
   
Series V: Printed Materials
   
Folder 28 Flyer: Fannie Lou Hamer for Congress (1964)
Folder 29 Brochure: Mississippi Summer Project (c. 1964)
Folder 30 Newsletters: Atlanta, Georgia “The Student Voice” (June 9, 1964 – June 6, 1965)
Folder 31 Newsletters: Benton County “Freedom Train” (July 15, 1964 – November 29, 1964)
Folder 32 Newsletter: “Capital District Friends of SNCC” (December 1965)
Folder 33 Newsletters: Holly Springs Freedom School “The Freedom News” (July 8, 1964 – July 10, 1964)
Folder 34 Newsletters: Rust College “The Bearcat” (July 15, 1964 – July 29, 1964)
Folder 35 Newsletter: SNCC’s “The Nation” (September 14, 1964)
Folder 36 Magazine Clippings (February 24, 1964 – Fall/Winter 1994)
Folder 37 Newspaper Clippings (June 22, 1964 – 1994)

 


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