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Collection Title: “Reflections of Mississippi Freedom Summer”

Accession Number: M 399

Dates: 2002

Volume: 1 video cassette

Provenance: Produced and donated by James Boukalik and Melissa Priem, 2002

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:

“Mississippi Freedom Summer” was a Civil Rights project that took place in the summer of 1964. Local volunteers worked with northern volunteers associated with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to run “Freedom Schools” to prepare African Americans to vote. At the time, Mississippi had 422,000 African Americans who were eligible to vote, but only 28,500 were registered voters. Voter registration in Mississippi was contingent upon payment of poll taxes (later deemed illegal) and a literacy test, the outcome of which was subject to the approval of the county registrar.

Not only did the Freedom Schools teach reading, writing, and black history; they also gave classes on the philosophy of non-violent protests. Other classes offered to supplement the deplorable educational opportunities offered to African American students by state schools were typing, poetry, art, and foreign language. Another important part of the Freedom Schools was that they taught local African Americans how to deal with certain social situations: how to protect yourself non-violently, how to survive a beating, what to do if you are arrested. Good citizenship and legal rights were also the subject of classes during “Mississippi Freedom Summer.”
Northern participants in “Mississippi Freedom Summer” were typically college age men and women. Volunteers had training workshops at the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, before coming to Mississippi. While in Mississippi, they stayed with local African American families. Many became very attached to their hosts who definitely put themselves in the line of fire by housing these unpopular outsiders.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was the largest Freedom Summer site. On the first day of the Freedom Schools in Hattiesburg, 600 students of all ages enrolled. African American churches served as the locations for the seven Freedom Schools in Hattiesburg including: Bentley Chapel United Methodist Church, Morning Star Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, St. Paul United Methodist Church, True Light Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Priest Creek Missionary Baptist Church, and St. John United Methodist Church in Palmer’s Crossing.

Sources:

Contents of the Collection

Randall, Herbert (photographs) and Bobs M. Tusa (text). Faces of Mississippi Freedom

Summer. (2001). Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press.

Scope and Content:

The collection is comprised of one video cassette of a documentary film produced by James Boukalik and Melissa Priem titled “Reflections of Mississippi Freedom Summer.” Boukalik and Priem created the film to gain knowledge about the Freedom Summer Project and to help others in their research on the subject. The film examines the experiences of Freedom Summer participants on a personal level. It features question and answer sequences with members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Mississippi activists, and volunteers from outside the state. There are also interviews with residents of Oxford, Ohio, where Freedom Summer volunteers were trained before coming to Mississippi. Interviewees include John Lewis, Bob Zellner, Dottie Zellner, Dave Dennis, and Rick Momeyer (SNCC/CORE); Helen O’Neal-McCray, Margaret Block, Charles McLaurin, and Ed King (Mississippi activists); Doug Tuchman, Norma Becker, Sandra Adickes, and Jan Hillegas (volunteers); plus Oxford, Ohio, residents who had contact with the volunteers.

Interviewees respond to questions regarding their reasons for becoming involved in the Freedom Summer project, reactions of their families, their particular roles in Freedom Summer, their personal experiences, and their feelings regarding various aspects of the project. The video also includes the reactions of volunteers to the 1964 murders of three Civil Rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

Related Collections:

Adickes (Sandra E.) Papers, 1964 –1994 (M 322)
Randall (Herbert) Freedom Summer Photographs, 1964 – 2001 (M 351)
Mississippi Oral History Program. Interview with Sandra Adickes. University of Southern Mississippi. Vol. 731.


Created by: Erin Royal
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Revised: January 28, 2005