I Remember | Program | #2101 — Freedom Summer 1964 & Michael Edmonds


>>”RISKING EVERYTHING, A FREEDOM SUMMER READER,” INCLUDES FIRSTHAND ACCOUNTS OF THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN MISSISSIPPI IN 1964. THE EDITOR, MICHAEL EDMONDS, IS MY SPECIAL GUEST NEXT ON “I REMEMBER.”>>HI, I’M JIM PECK. WELCOME TO “I REMEMBER.” JOINING ME TONIGHT IS MICHAEL EDMONDS, THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE LIBRARY ARCHIVES AT THE WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY. USING MATERIAL FROM THE SOCIETY’S COLLECTIONS, HE’S EDITED A BOOK DOCUMENTING EVENTS THAT HAPPENED 50 YEARS AGO, DURING WHAT BECAME KNOWN AS FREEDOM SUMMER. LET’S TAKE A LOOK. ♪ 18th GOING TO E>>♪♪>>IN THE SUMMER OF 1964, GWEN GILLON WAS ONE OF HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS FROM OTHER STATES WHO JOINED THOUSANDS OF MISSISSIPPI RESIDENTS IN A VOTER REGISTRATION PROJECT. THEIR GOAL WAS TO HELP LEGALLY DISENFRANCHISED AFRICAN-AMERICANS. IT BECAME KNOWN AS FREEDOM SUMMER. BOB MOSES OF SNCC, THE STUDENT NONVIOLENT COORDINATING COMMITTEE, WAS THE PROJECT DIRECTOR. ANOTHER LEADER WAS DAVE DENNIS FROM C.O.R.E., THE CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY. ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE PROJECT, JAMES CHANEY, MICHAEL SCHWERNER AND ANDREW GOODMAN WERE MURDERED. THEIR BODIES WERE DISCOVERED SIX WEEKS LATER. PEOPLE WERE BEATEN, CHURCHES WERE FIREBOMBED, AND THREE MORE PEOPLE LOST THEIR LIVES. BUT THE PUSH FOR CIVIL RIGHTS KEPT GOING. FREEDOM SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY CENTERS WERE OPENED AROUND THE STATE. THE MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS FORMED. CANDIDATES WERE BACKED FOR A PARALLEL ELECTION IN RESPONSE TO THE WHITES-ONLY DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN THE STATE. AT THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION IN ATLANTIC CITY, THE NATION’S ATTENTION WAS DRAWN TO WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN MISSISSIPPI. THE ARCHIVES AT THE WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY CONTAIN HUNDREDS OF DOCUMENTS RELATED TO FREEDOM SUMMER. THE SOCIETY’S TRAVELING EXHIBIT HONORS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF FREEDOM SUMMER. MICHAEL EDMONDS INCLUDES A NUMBER OF THE ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTS AND ACCOUNTS OF THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE BOOK, “RISKING EVERYTHING, A FREEDOM SUMMER READER.”>>I WANT TO READ SOMETHING FROM YOUR BOOK, MICHAEL. IT SAYS, IN MISSISSIPPI, IN 1960, 42% OF THE CITIZENS WERE BLACK. MOST OF THEM LIVED IN POVERTY, INDEBITED TO WHITE BANKS OR PLANTATION OWNERS. FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE TO THE PULPIT, IN THE CLASSROOM AND THE MEDIA, VIRTUALLY EVERY AUTHORITY FIGURE INSISTED THAT BLACK PEOPLE WERE DANGEROUSLY INFERIOR TO WHITES AND HAD TO BE KEPT IN SUBMISSION. HARD TO REMEMBER THERE WAS A TIME LIKE THAT. HOW BAD WERE CONDITIONS IN THAT SUMMER OF 1964 IN MISSISSIPPI?>>WELL, THAT SUMS IT UP IN THE FIRST PIECE OF THE BOOK THERE’S A WONDERFUL GUIDE TO LIFE IN MISSISSIPPI FOR OUTSIDERS WHO WERE WATCHING EVENTS UNFOLD BY A JOURNALIST NAMED JERRY DEMUTH AND HE TALKS ABOUT HOW RAMPANT THE RACE I AM — RACISM WAS. THAT STRIKES US AS ONE OF THE STRANGER THINGS, HOW COULD PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT, BUT IT KEYED INTO THE POWER STRUCTURE SO THAT MONEY, POLITICAL POWER, MATERIAL, EVERYTHING WAS DICTATED BY RACE, AND THE WHITE POWER STRUCTURE MADE SURE THAT AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAD NO IMPORTANT ROLES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES.>>WHO GOT THE IDEA, WHO STARTED FREEDOM SUMMER?>>WELL, THERE WAS A WORLD WAR II VETERAN IN MISSISSIPPI NAMED AMZIE MOORE WHO SINGLE HANDEDLY IN HIS PART OF THE STATE OPPOSED SEGREGATION AND FOUGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS THROUGH THE LATE 1940’S AND 1940’S AND WHEN SNCC, THE STUDENT NONVIOLENT COORDINATING COMMITTEE CAME ON THE SCENE IN 1960 TO THINK ABOUT ORGANIZING IN MISSISSIPPI, AMZIE MOORE SAID, SIT-INS ARE OF NO USE HERE, WE DON’T HAVE ANY BUSES, YOU NEED TO DECISION RATE GREAT. WHAT WE — DESEGREGATE, WHAT WE NEED IS FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE BALLOT, SO THEY WILL ELECT OFFICIALS WHO WILL SERVE THEM IN SED OF SUPPRESS THEM.>>WHICH SOUNDS EASY EXCEPT FOR ONE CATCH-22, THEY COULDN’T VOTE — RIGHT.>>SO MOORE SAID TO BOB MOSES, WHO WAS THE DIRECTOR OF FREEDOM SUMMER THREE YEARS LATER, SAID LET’S ORGANIZE A VOTER REGISTRATION CAMPAIGN AND THAT WAS THE WAY FREEDOM SUMMER, AS A PROJECT, WAS BUILT TO THE MEDIA, THAT IT WAS ABOUT SECURING THIS BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT THAT ALL AMERICANS SHOULD HAVE AND IT WAS A VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVE ON THE SURFACE.>>WHAT THEY INTENDED TO DO WAS TO REGISTER BLACKS TO VOTE, BUT THERE WAS MORE TO IT THAN THAT. THERE WERE SCHOOLS, THERE WAS — THERE WAS A POLITICAL CONVENTION, WE’LL TALK ABOUT THAT A BIT LATER. WHERE DID THE WORKERS COME FROM?>>THERE WERE REALLY THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO GOT INVOLVED IN FREEDOM SUMMER 50 YEARS AGO. THE FIRST WERE THE PAID STAFF OF SNCC AND C.O.R.E., AND THERE WERE ABOUT 120 OF THEM, THEY WERE VETERANS OF TRYING TO ORGANIZE IN THE SOUTH, AND THEY WERE PAID $10 A WEEK WHEN THE MONEY COULD BE RAISED. THEN THERE WERE THE VOLUNTEERS WHO CAME MOSTLY FROM THE NORTH, WHO SEEMED TO HAVE GOT ALL THE CREDIT IN THE LEGACY AS THE PROJECT HAS BEEN REMEMBERED.>>COLLEGE STUDENTS, LARGELY?>>FOR THE MOST PART, 90% WHITE COLLEGE STUDENTS FROM ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY, 48 STATES AND FIVE OTHER COUNTRIES. AND THEY CAME DOWN TO LEND A HAND AT THE REQUEST OF SNCC AND C.O.R.E. THE BUT THE PEOPLE THAT TEND TO GET OVERLOOKED IS 60,000 LOCAL RESIDENTS WHO LITERALLY PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE. EVERYBODY ELSE WAS GOING HOME AT THE END OF THE SUMMER.>>WELL, THAT RAISES A FASCINATING — FIRST OF ALL, THE PEOPLE, THE COLLEGE KIDS WHO CAME DOWN FROM THE NORTH, WERE PUTTING THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE. DID THEY HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THEY WERE GETTING INTO.>>I GET ASKED THIS EVERY TIME I TALK ABOUT THE BOOK. THERE WAS A TRAINING HELD IN THE SECOND HALF OF JUNE IN OHIO, AND THE TRAINERS WERE THE SNCC AND C.O.R.E. VETERANS, ALL OF AGE 22, OR 23. AND THEIR JOB WAS TO TRY TO LET THE NEW VOLUNTEERS IN ON WHAT THEY WERE UP AGAINST AND THEY HAD — THE TRAINERS HAD SEVERE MISGIVINGS, AND WHEN, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE PROJECT, THREE PEOPLE WENT MISSING, THOSE MISGIVINGS SEEMED TO HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED. EVERYBODY THAT I TALKED TO WHO ARE VETERANS OF THE MOVEMENT, VOLUNTEERS, SAID THEY WERE SCARED ALL THE TIME. THEY KNEW THAT THEY WERE RISKING THEIR LIVES, BUT THAT YOU COULDN’T OPERATE IF YOU FOCUSED ON THE FEAR.>>WHO WERE JAMES CHANEY, MICKEY SCHWERNER AND ANDREW GOODMAN?>>THEY WERE THREE OF THE FREEDOM SUMMER WORKERS THAT SUMMER, CHANEY WAS A NATIVE OF MISSISSIPPI, AND HE HAD BEEN DRAWN INTO THE MOVEMENT THROUGH A C.O.R.E. OPERATION IN MERIDIAN. MICKEY SCHWERNER WAS A VOLUNTEER, ACTUALLY WAS PAID C.O.R.E. STAFF MEMBER FROM NEW YORK. HE AND HIS WIFE MOVED DOWN TO MERIDIAN IN JANUARY OF 1964 IN ORDER TO OPEN A COMMUNITY CENTER, AND ANDREW GOODMAN WAS ONE OF THOSE IDEALISTIC BUT PERHAPS NAIVE VOLUNTEERS WHO CAME IN JUNE OF 1964. ANDY GOODMAN HAD STARTED HIS COLLEGE CAREER IN MADISON AT UW-WISCONSIN. HAD TO LEAVE FOR HEALTH REASONS AND THEN A COUPLE OF YEARS LATER, SAW THE CALL FOR HELP AND VOLUNTEERED FOR MISSISSIPPI.>>THEY GOT ARRESTED.>>THEY GOT DETAINED.>>ALL RIGHT. YES. AND THAT’S A CRITICAL TERM, ISN’T IT?>>ACTUALLY, AN ARREST MADE. YES, THEY HAD THE END OF THE FIRST WEEK OF TRAINING, THEY WENT SOUTH TO LOOK AT A CHURCH IN RURAL MISSISSIPPI, THAT HAD BEEN FIREBOMBED, THE CHURCH HAD AGREED TO HOLD A FREEDOM SCHOOL DURING THE SUMMER AND HAD BEEN BURNT TO THE GROUND BEFORE THE SUMMER WORK EVEN BEGAN, SO THEY WENT SOUTH TO TALK — THEY WENT THERE TO TALK TO THE PASTOR AND OTHERS, AND AS THEY LEFT THE AREA THAT EVENING, THEY WERE STOPPED BY THE POLICE, TAKEN TO THE POLICE STATION, AND AFTER BEING HELD FOR A WHILE, WERE TURNED OVER TO THE KLAN. THEY WERE LET LOOSE AND THE POLICE BY PRIOR ARRANGEMENT HAD NOTIFIED THE KLAN TO FOLLOW THEM.>>THIS IS FASCINATING, BECAUSE ONE THING THAT ALL THE VOLUNTEERS WERE TRAINED IN AND TAUGHT NOT TO DO WAS TO TRAVEL AT NIGHT.>>YEAH.>>AND SO THE POLICE HELD THEM DURING THE DAY, AND TURNED THEM LOOSE AT NIGHT.>>I THINK THEY WERE PICKED UP AROUND DUSK AND THEY PROBABLY THOUGHT AS EXPERIENCED PEOPLE, THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD GET AWAY WITH THIS. CHANEY WAS KNOWN FOR HIS FABULOUS DRIVING SKILLS. HAD OUTRUN TERRORISTS BEFORE. AND IT’S PROBABLE THEY THOUGHT THAT THEY COULD GET BACK BEFORE ANY HARM CAME TO THEM. THEY WERE RELEASED FROM THE JAIL ABOUT 10:30 P.M. AT NIGHT, THEY HAD NO CHOICE AT THAT POINT.>>NOW, HOW DID THE MOB, THE KLAN, FIND OUT ABOUT WHERE THEY WERE GOING TO BE AND WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO BE RELEASED?>>THIS IS A WONDERFUL AND TRAGIC STORY. THERE’S A RECENT DOCUMENTARY JUST THIS YEAR OR LATE LAST YEAR CALLED “SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI,” MISSISSIPPI HAD A STATE-FUNDED AGENCY, A BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT CALLED THE SOVEREIGNTY COMMISSION THAT BASICALLY TRIED TO SUPPRESS THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, AND EMPLOYEES, INFILTRATORS FROM THE SOVEREIGNTY COMMISSION HAD ACTUALLY BEEN AT THE TRAINING IN OHIO. AND SO WHEN SCHWERNER AND CHANEY AND GOODMAN LEFT, THEY CALLED THE POLICE IN THE AREA WITH RA DESCRIPTION OF THE CAR, AND THE LICENSE PLATE NUMBER, SO THE POLICE KNEW THEY WERE COMING. THE — MUCH OF THE POLICE FORCE IN THE AREA WERE KLAN MEMBERS THEMSELVES, SO FROM THE LOCAL LEVEL TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF STATE GOVERNMENT, MISSISSIPPI WAS IMPLICATED IN THE MURDER OF THOSE THREE YOUNG MEN.>>THEY DISAPPEARED AND IT WAS ASSUMED, AND THEN LATER, WAS PROVEN THAT ALL THREE OF THEM WERE MURDERED.>>YES. ANYBODY WHO HAD WORKED IN THE SOUTH, THE VETERANS WHO WERE DOING THE TRAINING AND LEADING THE LOCAL PROJECTS, THEY ALL KNEW THAT WHEN THEY DID NOT RETURN ON TILE, THEY MUST HAVE BEEN KILLED. THE 900 VOLUNTEERS PROBABLY HELD OUT HOPE, BUT IT WAS PRETTY CLEAR THAT THEY WEREN’T GOING TO BE FOUND. IT TOOK SIX WEEKS TO FIND THEIR BODIES. AND DURING THAT WHOLE TIME, THE NATION’S ATTENTION WAS RIVETED ON MISSISSIPPI. NOW, BLACK PEOPLE HAD BEEN ABDUCTED AND KILLED AND IT DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE LOCAL MEDIA. BUT AS SOON AS TWO WHITE GUYS FROM NEW YORK GET –>>CHANEY WAS AFRICAN-AMERICAN.>>YES. YEAH. AND THEN IT BECOMES NATIONAL NEWS.>>AND HE DID NOT HAVE AN EASY DEATH.>>NO. IF THERE CAN BE AN EASY DEATH UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT IT SEEMS PRETTY CLEAR THAT HE WAS BADLY TORTURED BEFORE THEY SHOT HIM.>>AND THE OTHER TWO WERE SIMPLY SHOT?>>YES.>>AND YET THERE WAS NOT A MASS EXODUS OF ALL THESE — ALL I CAN THINK OF, EACH ONE OF THESE PEOPLE WENT DOWN THERE, HAD PARENTS SAYING YOU’RE GOING WHERE, YOU’RE DOING WHAT?>>RIGHT. MANY OF THEM WENT AGAINST THEIR PARENTS’ WISHES. THE ONES THAT I HAVE TALKED TO, AND I WAS JUST AT A 50th 50th REUNION IN MISSISSIPPI FOR VOLUNTEERS, AND FREEDOM SUMMER WORKERS, THE ONES THAT I TALKED TO JUST FELT THAT IT WAS AN OVERWHELMINGLY IMPORTANT THING TO DO, IT WAS WHAT THEY WERE CALLED TO DO. EVEN LOOKING BACK ON IT NOW, THEY’RE IN THEIR 70’S OR APPROACHING 80, MANY OF THEM THINK IT WAS THE MOST VALUABLE THING THEY EVER DID DURING THEIR CAREERS.>>AND YET TERRIFIED ALL THE TIME, THEY WERE SHOT AT, THEY WERE BEATEN, THEY WERE ARRESTED.>>THE HOUSES THEY STAYED IN WERE BOMBED, SURE.>>AND AS I REMEMBER THAT GOING ON, AND IT WAS JUST, YOU’RE RIGHT, THE NATION WAS RIVETED ON IT. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THEY DID WAS START FREEDOM SCHOOLS. WHAT WERE THOSE FREEDOM SCHOOLS WHO WENT THERE, WHAT DID THEY TEACH?>>YEAH. AT THE TIME IN MISSISSIPPI, FOR GENERATIONS, SCHOOLS HAD BEEN SEGREGATED, MOST BLACK PEOPLE WENT TO VERY POORLY FUNDED SEGREGATED SCHOOLS. THE AVERAGE EDUCATION LEVEL OF THE AVERAGE AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN MISSISSIPPI WAS SIXTH GRADE AND THE CURRICULUM WAS TODAY WE’D CALL IT RACIST, WAS ABOUT WHITE SUPREMACY AND SO FOR GENERATIONS, LOCAL BLACK RESIDENTS HAD INTERNALIZED A LOT OF THE MESSAGES OF INFERIORITY AND SO FORTH AND CHARLIE COBB CAME UP WITH THE IDEA THAT RUNNING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS, THE FREEDOM SUMMER ORGANIZERS COULD UNDERMINE THAT CONDITIONING THAT HAPPENED. THE FREEDOM SCHOOLS THOUGHT 6, BLACK HISTORY, THEY ENCOURAGED CRITICAL THINKING, THEY ENCOURAGED KIDS TO QUESTION EVERYTHING THEY HAD BEEN TOLD AND THINK FOR THEMSELVES. SOME OF THE KIDS WHO WERE IN THE SCHOOLS WHO WERE AT THE CONFERENCE I WENT TO IN JUNE IN MISSISSIPPI, AND CREDITED WITH ABSOLUTELY CHANGING THEIR LIVES, TURNING THEIR LIVES UPSIDE DOWN. ONE WHO WAS A TEENAGER AND IN A BLACK HIGH SCHOOL LEARNED OF ALGEBRA. HE FIRST LEARNED OF ALGEBRA IN A FREEDOM SCHOOL.>>I WORKED IF ACADEMIA FOR A WHILE BEFORE I GOT INTO TELEVISION, AND I REMEMBER LOOKING AT TRANSCRIPTS FROM A STUDENT WHO HAD BEEN EDUCATED IN A SEGREGATED SCHOOL IN THE SOUTH. AND TRANSCRIPT HAD ALGEBRA, IT HAD TRIGONOMETRY, IT HAD CALCULUS. THAT STUDENT KNEW NONE OF THOSE THINGS. THAT STUDENT HAD TROUBLE WITH BASIC ARITHMETIC BUT YET HAD PASSED AND IF YOU LOOK AT THE TRANSCRIPT, IT WOULD LOOK LIKE IT WAS GOING TO A VERY GOOD SCHOOL. IT MUST HAVE BEEN DANGEROUS FOR THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES TO GO TO THOSE SCHOOLS.>>IT WAS AND SOME PARENT DIDN’T WANT THEIR KIDS TO GO. SCHOOLS WERE BOMBED, NOT USUALLY WHEN KIDS WERE IN THEM, I CAN’T THINK OF A CASE WHERE THAT HAPPENED, BUT THE BUILDINGS WERE BOMBED AND BURNT TO THE GROUND. THERE WERE I THINK 33 FREEDOM SCHOOLS AROUND THE STATE THAT SUMMER, OVER 200 VOLUNTEER TEACHERS AND ALMOST 3,000 STUDENTS. SO FREEDOM SUMMER HAD A SUCCESS, IT WAS THE FREEDOM SCHOOLS.>>AND THAT’S JUST AMAZING. NOW, HOW WERE THE VOLUNTEERS ACCEPTED IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY? THERE MUST HAVE BEEN SOME SUSPICION, A WHITE GUY COMING IN HERE AND KNOCKING ON MY DOOR AND YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT.>>BY THEIR HOST FAMILIES, THEY WERE LOVED, AND TREATED VERY GENEROUSLY, AND LOCAL ORGANIZERS WERE JUST THRILLED THAT ANYBODY WOULD TAKE AN INTEREST IN THEIR PROBLEMS, BUT AS THEY WENT DOOR TO DOOR, CANVASSING, TRYING TO GET BLACK RESIDENTS TO REGISTER TO VOTE, THEY MET THE REACTION THAT YOU JUST SUMMARIZED, PEOPLE THOUGHT, OH, I’M NOT GOING TO DO THAT, I CAN’T DO THAT. TO VOTE IN MISSISSIPPI, TO REGISTER, YOU HAD TO FILL OUT AN APPLICATION THAT ASKED YOU TO RESTATE IN YOUR OWN WORDS WHAT SECTION OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION THAT THE REGISTRAR WOULD CHOOSE. WELL –>>THE REGISTRAR WOULD CHOOSE?>>RIGHT AND THE REGISTRAR DECIDED WHETHER YOU DID IT RIGHT OR NOT. THERE WAS NO APPEAL AND THERE WAS NO STANDARD AGAINST THAT WHICH WAS MEASURED. THAT WAS BAD ENOUGH, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE HUMILIATING IF YOU COULDN’T DO THAT. THE REAL KICKER WAS ANYONE WHO APPLIED TO VOTE, TO REGISTER TO VOTE HAD THEIR NAME PUBLISHED IN THE NEWSPAPER FOR TWO WEEKS. THIS WAS THE STATE LAW, SO THAT MEANT THAT A BLACK PERSON WHO WENT AND TRIED TO GET THE RIGHT TO VOTE WAS ALMOST CERTAIN TO LOSE THEIR JOB, IF THEY WERE A TENANT FARMER, TO BE EVICTED FROM THEIR HOME, AND I DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU LAST VOTED, BUT IF YOU WERE GOING TO GIVE UP YOUR JOB AND YOUR HOME, WOULD IT BE WORTH IT TO YOU?>>AND MAYBE YOUR LIFE.>>AND MAYBE YOUR LIFE.>>WHO WAS FANNIE LOU HAMER?>>FANNIE LOU HAMER WAS A SHARE CROPPER IN THE DELTA TOWN OF RULEVILLE, AND SHE HAD COME FROM A FAMILY OF GENERATIONS OF SHARE CROPPERS AND SLAVES BEFORE THAT. AND WHEN SHE LEARNED THAT SHE HAD THE RIGHT TO VOTE, AND PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS, SHE WANTED TO DO THAT. SHE WENT TO THE COUNTY COURTHOUSE AND TRIED TO REGISTER AND WHEN SHE GOT BACK HOME TO THE PLANTATION WHERE HER CABIN WAS, SHE WAS TOLD THAT SHE HAD BEEN FIRED AND EVICTED AND HAD TO FIND SOMEPLACE ELSE TO LIVE. THAT ONLY STRENGTHENED HER RESOLVE, AND SHE WENT FOR ADDITIONAL TRAINING IN VOTER REGISTRATION WORK, AND COMING BACK FROM ONE OF THOSE WORKSHOPS, SHE WAS SEIZED BY THE POLICE AND BEATEN AND TORTURED AND JAILED. ALL OF THIS ONLY MADE HER A MORE EFFECTIVE LEADER. SHE WAS A BORN LEADER, GREAT CHARISMA, WOULD BURST INTO FREEDOM SONGS WHEN EVERYBODY ELSE WAS DISCOURAGED AND WAS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF SNCC’S PHILOSOPHY OF LETTING PEOPLE COME FROM THE BOTTOM. THE WOMAN WHO REALLY WAS A CHIEF ARCHITECT OF FREEDOM SUMMER IN SNCCOLOGY WAS ELLA BAKER AND ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUSIZATION IS STRONG PEOPLE DON’T NEED STRONG LEADERS AND FANNIE LOU HAMER WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO CAME OUT OF MISSISSIPPI AND BECAME A LEADER OF THE MOVEMENT.>>WHAT KIND OF TRAINING DID THE VOLUNTEERS GET? WHAT WERE THEY TOLD ABOUT THESE THINGS MIGHT HAPPEN TO YOU AND THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD RESPOND TO THEM?>>THEY HAD A WEEK LIVING IN DORMITORIES, WHAT WAS THEN CALLED THE WESTERN COLLEGE FOR WOMEN, TODAY, MIAMI UNIVERSITY IN OXNARD AND FOR PART OF THE DAY, EXPERTS LIKE ATTORNEYS WOULD COME IN AND TALK TO THEM ABOUT THE LAW, AND THEN FOR PART OF THE DAY, THESE YOUNG SNCC AND C.O.R.E. MEMBERS WOULD TELL THEM WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE ARRESTED AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO. THERE’S A LITTLE THREE OR FOUR PAGE SECURITY HANDBOOK THAT I — THAT IS IN –>>YES, IT IS.>>THAT WAS THE ADVICE AND THEN PART OF THE DAY, THEY’D BE BROKEN UP INTO GROUPS BY EITHER WHERE THEY WERE GOING OR WHAT KIND OF WORK THEY WERE DOING, SO THE TEACHERS WOULD CALL GET TRAINED TOGETHER IN LESSON PLANS AND CURRICULUM, THE VOTER REGISTRATION PEOPLE WOULD GET TRAINED TOGETHER ON HOW TO HAVE CREDIBILITY AS YOU GO DOOR TO DOOR AND TRY TO GET SIGNATURES.>>AND WHAT WERE THEY TOLD TO DO IF THEY EXPERIENCED VIOLENCE?>>WELL, THE PARTY LINE WITH SNCC WAS NONVIOLENT AND THEY WERE TRAINED IN CLASSIC NONVIOLENT TECHNIQUES, THAT GANDHI HAD MADE WELL KNOWN. IN PRACTICE, THERE WERE PEOPLE IF ALL OF THOSE COMMUNITIES WHO DIDN’T SUBSCRIBE TO NONVIOLENCE, AND GUARDED THE VOLUNTEER WORKERS WITH GUNS.>>OH, THEY DID.>>YEAH. ONE OF THE SNCC LEADERS, CHARLIE COBB, WHO HAD THE IDEA FOR FREEDOM SCHOOLS, JUST PUBLISHED THIS SUMMER, A BOOK CALLED “THIS NONVIOLENT STUFF WILL GET YOU KILLED.” THAT IT TELLS THE HISTORY OF ARMED BLACK PEOPLE IN THE SOUTH, AND IT’S PRETTY CLEAR THAT THE MUCH NONVIOLENT TECHNIQUES WOULD NOT HAVE SUCCEEDED IF THERE HAD NOT BEEN PEOPLE IN THE BACKGROUND WITH THEIR RIFLES.>>BUT THEY MUST HAVE BEEN TOLD, YOU DON’T BE VIOLENT.>>YES. ALTHOUGH THEY WEREN’T — SNCC WAS NOT A HIERARCHYIAL ORGANIZATION, NOTHING CAME DOWN AND SAID DON’T YOU DO THIS. THEY HAD TO EMBRACE IT AND THERE WERE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHAT TO DO IF THEIR HOSTS KEPT GUNS BY THE DOOR. WAS THAT OK TO LET YOUR HOST PROTECT YOU OR SHOULD YOU TRY TO FIND A PLACE TO LIVE WHERE YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE TO BE AROUND WEAPONS. I THINK MOST VOLUNTEERS WERE VERY PRAGMATIC.>>I WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY PRAGMATIC.>>CERTAINLY A –>>I WOULD HAVE BEEN ON A BUS GOING BACK NORTH. I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN THAT COURAGEOUS.>>WE WOULD LIKE TO THINK WE WOULD ALL BE THE HEROES. THE SNCC LEADERS, THE PROJECT LEADERS IN INDIVIDUAL COMMUNITIES GENERALLY SUBSCRIBED TO NONVIOLENCE, AND THEY WERE THE ONES YOU SEE IN THE PICTURES BEING CARRIED AWAY TO THE PADDY WAGON. THE VOLUNTEERS IMPLICITLY AGREED TO THAT, BUT HOW MANY OF THEM FOUND THEMSELVES IN THOSE SITUATIONS AND THEN ACTED ACCORDINGLY, I DON’T KNOW.>>WHAT WAS THE FREEDOM VOTE?>>THE FREEDOM VOTE OCCURRED NINE MONTHS BEFORE IN THE FALL OF 1963, AND THE PARTY LINE IN MISSISSIPPI HAD BEEN THAT BLACK PEOPLE DON’T CARE ABOUT POLITICS, THEY DON’T WANT IT 0 VOTE, SO SNCC ORGANIZED A MOCK ELECTION CALLED THE FREEDOM VOTE, AND 80,000 BLACK MISSISSIPPIANS SIGNED UP FOR IT AND PARTICIPATED.>>WOW.>>THIS WAS DURING THE GOVERNOR’S ELECTION IN 1963, AND ABOUT 80 STANFORD AND YALE STUDENTS CAME DOWN TO HELP ORGANIZE THAT, AND THAT MADE A LITTLE LIGHT BULB GO OFF IN THE HEAD OF BOB MOSES AN OTHER SNCC LEADERS SAYING WE COULD GET THE KIDS, DECISION MAKERS IN WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES TO COME HELP US, WE’D GET NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION, SO THE NEXT YEAR, WITH FREEDOM SUMMER, THEY REPEATED THAT AND THEY ORGANIZED THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER A NEW POLITICAL PARTY CALLED THE MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM DEMOCRATIC PARTY, WHICH RAN CANDIDATES IN A SECOND MOCK ELECTION IN THE FALL OF 1964.>>AND WASN’T THERE — DIDN’T THEY ELECT A SLATE OF DELEGATES TO THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION?>>YES. YES, THEY DID. THIS WAS ANOTHER GOAL OF FREEDOM SUMMER. THE MISSISSIPPI DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS SEGREGATED AND WHITE SUPREMISTS AND HAD ALWAYS BEEN RUN BY THE SAME HANDFUL OF WHITE PEOPLE. THEY HAD BEEN IN CONGRESS SO LONG, THEY CHAIRED MOST OF THE IMPORTANT COMMITTEES, THEY WERE CALLED THE DIXIECRATS, WHITE SENATORS. BLACK MISSISSIPPIANS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MAINSTREAM PARTY AT ALL. SO SNCC AND C.O.R.E. LEADERS AGAIN SAID LET’S SET UP AN INDEPENDENT ONE AND IN AUGUST OF 1964, WHEN THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY HOLDS ITS CONVENTION TO CHOOSE A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, WE’LL GO THERE AND CHALLENGE THE RIGHT OF THE MAINSTREAM PARTY TO SIT.>>VERY SMART.>>SO THEY THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER, THEY ORGANIZED THE PARTY ACCORDING TO THE THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY RULES, THEY ELECTED DELEGATES AND 50 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK, AROUND THE 21st 21st OF AUGUST, THEY ALL ARRIVED IN ATLANTIC CITY, MOST OF THEM VERY IDEALISTIC, THAT BECAUSE THEY HAD FOLLOWED ALL THE RULES AND JUSTICE WAS ON THEIR SIDE, THAT THE BUMS WOULD BE THROWN OUT.>>AND THIS IS OUR PARTY AFTER ALL, AND WHAT HAPPENED?>>WELL, LYNDON JOHNSON WAS VERY AFRAID HE WOULD LOSE THE SOUTH, IF HE SUPPORTED THE FREEDOM DEMOCRATS. HE DID NOT WANT TO ANTAGONIZE THOSE SENIOR MISSISSIPPI SENATORS WHO CONTROLLED LIKE THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND WAYS AND MEANS AND HE DIDN’T WANT TO LOSE THE POPULAR VOTE IN THE SOUTH, SO HE WORKED BEHIND THE SCENES TO MAKE SURE THE FREEDOM DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS NOT SEATED. THEY HAD TO TESTIFY BEFORE THE CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE OF THE PARTY, WHICH WAS 100 PEOPLE, MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE AND THEY ONLY USED 11 OF THEM TO SAY, LET THE FREEDOM PARTY SIT. AND THEY HAD THAT 11 AFTER GIVING TESTIMONY. FANNIE LOU HAMER GAVE TESTIMONY THAT WAS TELEVISED NATIONALLY ABOUT HER BEATING AND WHAT IT’S LIKE IN MISSISSIPPI, AND SHE WAS SO POWERFUL THAT LYNDON JOHNSON, WATCHING IN THE WHITE HOUSE, CALLED A NEWS CONFERENCE AND ALL THE NETWORKS CUT AWAY TO HIM AND HE JUST WANTED THE COUNTRY TO KNOW THAT IT WAS THE NINE MONTH ANNIVERSARY OF JOHN CONLEY HAVING BEEN SHOT DURING THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION AND BY THE CAMERAS CUT BACK, MRS. HAMER WAS DOWN AND SHE HAD SAID WITH TEARS STREAMING DOWN HER FACE, IS THIS AMERICA, THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE AND THE WHOLE ROOM, THE CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE WERE ALL IN TEARS, THE FOOTAGE IS MARVELOUS OF THIS. IT BACKFIRED ON JOHNSON IN A COUPLE OF WAYS. FIRST, THE NEWS CHANNELS REALIZED HE DUPED THEM AND SO THEY JUST RAN HER SPEECH LATER IN THE NIGHT AND FOCUSED IN ON HER CLIMACTIC SCENE AND THEN IN THE FALL, JOHNSON LOST THE SOUTH ANYWAY. IT DIDN’T DO HIM ANY GOOD AT ALL.>>BUT THEY WERE NEVER SEATED.>>THEY WEREN’T. BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADERSHIP OFFERED A COMPROMISE WHICH WAS TO ALLOW THE SEGREGATIONISTS TO SIT AT THE CONVENTION, AND BE JOINED BY TWO PEOPLE FROM THE MFDP.>>ALL OF TWO PEOPLE.>>ALL OF TWO PEOPLE AND THE PARTY TOLD THE MISSISSIPPI FOLKS WHO HAD WOULD BE AND THEY SAID NO, WE DIDN’T COME HERE FOR TWO SEATS AND WENT BACK.>>HOW WAS THIS BOOK RESPONDED TO IN JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI?>>AT THE 50th REUNION OF FREEDOM SUMMER FOLKS IN JUNE WHEN I WAS DOWN THERE, IT WAS ONE OF MANY BOOKS THAT WERE OFFERED AND I HAD PEOPLE COMING UP TO ME ALL DURING THE SESSION, TO DISCUSS IT. I HAD GONE IN FEELING LIKE MAYBE WE GOT THINGS WRONG SOMEHOW OR WAS ONE SIDED, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO WERE IN THE TRENCHES 50 YEARS AGO, REALLY APPRECIATED THE BOOK AND THOUGHT THAT IN FACT WE NAILED IT.>>HOW DID — I LOVE ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE IN HERE. HOW DID ALL THAT MATERIAL GET TO THE WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY?>>WELL A HANDFUL OF WHITE VOLUNTEERS WHO HAD WORKED IN THE SOUTH IN 1963 AND 1964 CAME IMMEDIATELY AFTER FREEDOM SUMMER TO BE GRAD STUDENTS AND HISTORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN. AND THEY THOUGHT THAT THE STORIES OF ALL THESE PEOPLE IN GRASSROOTS COMMUNITIES WAS GOING TO VANISH. THAT HISTORIANS WOULD ONLY BE ABLE TO SEE THE FILE CABINETS OF THE NAACP MEETINGS OR WHATEVER, AND SO THE SOCIETY DIRECTOR AT THE TIME PUT THEM ON THE PAYROLL AND SAID GO BACK TO THE SOUTH, KNOCK ON DOORS, COLLECT PAPERS FROM PEOPLE THAT YOU KNOW. AND THEY DID THAT IN 1965, 1966, AN 1967, AND CREATED ONE OF THE NATION’S RICHEST DOCUMENTARIES COLLECTIONS ON THE CIVIL RIGHTS.>>FASCINATING TO READ THE FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT AND FANNIE LOU HAMER WE TALKED ABOUT IS ONE OF THEM. IT’S JUST AMAZING THAT ALL OF THAT ENDED UP HERE IN WISCONSIN AND WE’RE DELIGHTED THAT IT DID.>>YES.>>IT’S ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING TO ME, AND AS I SAY, I LIVED THROUGH IT, I KNEW A LOT OF IT I LEARNED SO MUCH MORE. THE BOOK IS “RISKING EVERYTHING, A FREEDOM SUMMER READER,” EDITED BY — WE JUST TOUCHED THE SURFACE OF WHAT’S IN HERE. IT IS ONE OF THE GREAT STORIES OF COURAGE, I THINK THAT ONE COULD READ.>>MICHAEL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR COMING.>>MY PLEASURE.>>AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US AND I HOPE WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME AS WE CONTINUED TO REMEMBER.

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