It was 50 years ago this summer that the Mississippi Freedom Summer project was launched by a number of civil rights organizations including the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, all of which were part of the e Council of Federated Organizations, known by its acronym COFO. Their goal: to register as many African American voters as they could in the state of Mississippi. Before the project less than 10% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote – the lowest in the nation.
The Mississippi Freedom Summer project was years in the making and involved over a thousand students from outside Mississippi coming into the state. On June 21, 1964, just as the project began, three men who were volunteering to register people, James Chaney, a black CORE activist from Mississippi, and Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, two white Jewish activists from New York, were arrested by a white deputy sheriff who was also a member of the Klan. They were abducted and killed in one of the worst instances of violence marking the civil rights movement.
On the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, we share with you a series of excerpts from some incredible and rare documentaries made by Pacifica reporters who were at the scene. These tapes are newly recovered and preserved.
First we’ll hear excerpts from a 2 part documentary by acclaimed, award winning Pacifica reporter, Dale Minor called Mississippi Delta, which sets the stage for how poorly African Americans were treated in Mississippi. Then, we’ll hear the voices of organizers of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and finally, we’ll hear about the three project workers who were killed.
Special thanks to the Pacifica Radio Archives for these recordings.