This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most consequential moments in the history of the US Civil Rights Movement. In June 1964, more than a thousand college-aged, primarily white, Northerners joined thousands of mostly black civil rights workers in Mississippi and Louisiana in a massive drive to register African-American voters. Over the ten weeks of the project, the volunteers were victims of random shootings, more than 1,600 arrests, 80 serious beatings, and four deaths. Thirty-seven churches and thirty homes and businesses were bombed or burned. It is well known that the violence was perpetrated by white racist vigilantes and terror groups, often organized by the Ku Klux Klan in collusion with local law enforcement agencies.
In spite of the violence, Freedom Summer volunteers taught in thirty-eight “Freedom Schools,” and assisted the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which challenged the all-white party at the 1964 Democratic Convention. Though Freedom Summer did not succeed in registering many new voters, it brought nationwide attention to the injustices that African Americans had endured, and it profoundly changed the lives of those who participated. This program brings together four committed activists and scholars, some of whom were volunteers, and others who have studied and written extensively about Freedom Summer. Join us for a program that honors a defining moment in our nation’s noblest struggle.
Doug McAdam (Moderator)
Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology and Director, Program on Urban Studies, Stanford
Doug McAdam is a leading scholar of American social and political movements, and is the author of a dozen books including the prize-winning Freedom Summer and the forthcoming How Did We Get Into This Mess? Race, Region, and the Role of Social Movements in Today’s Divided America.
Professor of American History and Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
Clay Carson was a civil rights and antiwar activist before becoming a historian. In addition to serving as senior editor of seven volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., he has published three other books based on the Papers. His most recent book is a memoir, Martin’s Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Senior Lecturer, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
Marshall Ganz was a Freedom Summer volunteer in McComb, Mississippi, helped organize the MFDP, and stayed on to become a field secretary for SNCC before moving to California where he worked with Cesar Chávez and the United Farm Workers for sixteen years. After another ten years of union, issue, and electoral organizing, he returned to Harvard in 1991, completed his undergraduate degree, received a PhD in sociology, and joined the faculty at the Kennedy School to teach organizing.
Mary Elizabeth King
Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University for Peace (United Nations Affiliated); Distinguished Fellow, Rothermore American Institute, Oxford
Mary King served for four years as a staff member for SNCC in Atlanta and Jackson after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1962, an experience she chronicles in her prize-winning book, Freedom Song: A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
Free and open to public