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Collection Title: Davis (Martha) Freedom Summer Collection

Collection Number: M 412

Dates: 1964; 2003

Volume: .25 cu. ft.

Provenance: Donated by Dr. Martha Davis in 2003.

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:


Dr. Martha Davis

Dr. Martha Davis was one of three office volunteers who worked for the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) when it was first established in New York in early 1964. At this time, Davis was 21 years old and had just graduated from the University of Rochester. She helped Dr. Tom Levin, founder of MCHR, organize teams of volunteer health professionals, and coordinate their flights to Mississippi. During Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, Davis traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi with a student volunteer group. Her experiences during Freedom Summer affected her deeply, as it did so many of the volunteers and individuals involved. After Freedom Summer, Davis attended graduate school and earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.


The Medical Committee for Human Rights

The Medical Committee for Human Rights was founded just after the disappearance of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi. A group of health professionals in New York, led by Dr. Tom Levin, scheduled a meeting to decide what they could do to contribute to the Civil Rights Movement in the South. African Americans and any white individuals helping the Civil Rights Movement were subject to severe discrimination. This discrimination was often in the form of intimidation, threats, violence, refusal of medical care, or sometimes even death. The health professionals decided to form a volunteer organization to offer medical assistance to African Americans in the South and Civil Rights workers and activists who were injured in demonstrations and marches.

In June of 1964 the Medical Committee for Human Rights was officially established in New York. MCHR organized teams of medical professionals to travel to Mississippi and provide first aid to African Americans and Civil Rights workers. The volunteers of MCHR were limited by law from practicing medicine out of state, however, they could offer emergency first aid anywhere and at anytime. The volunteer health professionals also took this time in Mississippi to visit local African American communities and local healthcare providers to recommend methods to initiate structural change of the health care system and impel Mississippi to provide better health care services to African Americans.

The volunteers of the Medical Committee for Human Rights played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement and, in particular, during Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. These MCHR volunteers, like all Civil Rights volunteers, put themselves at risk to fight for freedom and equality.

Sources:

Contents of Collection
Health Care is a Human Right: A Collection of Biographies of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), 1964-1997, (New York: MCHR Book Committee, 1998?), call number E185.93.M6 H43 1998 (McCain Library).

Scope and Content:

This collection was donated by Dr. Martha Davis in 2003. It contains information pertaining to the founding of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, their involvement in Civil Rights activities in Mississippi, and the personal experiences of Martha Davis, Hy Gold, and Tom Levin. The collection consists of four folders:

Folder 1 Freedom Summer Memoir by Martha Davis (2003)
Folder 2 Interview: Dr. Hy Gold (May 30, 2003)
Folder 3 Interview: Dr. Tom Levin (May 29, 2003)
Folder 4 Photographs (1964)

Folder 1 contains a three-page memoir recounting Dr. Davis’ involvement with the MCHR and her participation in Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964.

In May of 2003 Dr. Davis conducted two oral interviews that enhance this collection. University of Southern Mississippi graduate student, Nadine Phillips, transcribed both interviews and the typed transcripts are included with the original audiocassettes. Folder 2 holds Davis' interview with Dr. Hy Gold, who served as president of MCHR. Davis' interview with Dr. Tom Levin, founder of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) and the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), is in Folder 3.

The collection also includes two photographs taken during Dr. Davis’ volunteer work in Mississippi, which are located in Folder 4. During the oral interview with Dr. Levin, he gave Dr. Davis a sheet from a memo pad with the CDGM logo, which he had kept as a memento and this can be found in Folder 4 with the photographs.


Related Collections:

M388 Blumenthal (Daniel S.) Papers
M406 Civil Rights in the South Collection
Health Care is a Human Right: A Collection of Biographies of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), 1964-1997, (New York: MCHR Book Committee, 1998?), call number E185.93.M6 H43 1998 (McCain Library).
M375 Martin (Josephine) Papers
AM 2000-46 Orris (Leo) Civil Rights Collection


Other Finding Aids:

Photograph Log


M 412
Davis (Martha) Freedom Summer Collection
Photograph Log

M 412-1
Freedom Summer Staff Meeting in Clarksdale, Mississippi
8 ½ X 11 B&W 1964
Staff meeting for volunteers working in Clarksdale, Mississippi during
Freedom Summer 1964. The man in the tie seated to the far right is believed to be a lawyer. Standing in the center of the photograph is Mat Zwerling. Seated to the right of him speaking and gesturing is Lafayette Surney. The rest of the staff (unidentified) looks on and listens.
M 412-2 Dr. John Thompson Talking with Aaron Henry
8 ½ X 11 B&W 1964
Dr. John Thompson, a MCHR volunteer, talking with Aaron Henry during
a weekend cookout for the workers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the backyard of Aaron’s house in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

 


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Revised: October 3, 2005