Freedom Summer, 1964
History this week? June, twenty, first nineteen, sixty four. I'm Sally. It's around ten PM in Central Mississippi. Three civil rights workers have just been released from jail. They were arrested earlier in the day allegedly for speeding. They've paid their twenty dollar fine and been allowed to leave. As, they had out the door. The deputy tells them see how quickly you can get out of Michigan County. These men don't need telling twice. They know what can happen. Civil Rights Workers in Mississippi. Two of them James, Chaney and Michael Schnur are experienced activists. The Third Andrew Goodman is a newly arrived volunteer. Cheney is Bach, born and raised in Mississippi shorter and Goodman are white New Yorkers. All three of the men are young. Twenty Twenty One and twenty four years old. Start to drive home Donna dark rural highway. And then they realize they're being followed. By two cars and a beliefs cruiser, all full of white men. They turn off the highway trying to get away, but it doesn't worry me. Their pursuers catch up to them. The three men are forced out of their station wagon into the police cruiser. They're taken to a remote spot called rock cut road. The cruiser slow to a halt. The next morning headline in the local paper reads three civil rights. Workers reported missing. We didn't try to wait until they found the body given the circumstances new, they were dead. Today the story of a pivotal action in the civil rights movement. Freedom Summer. What happened when experienced block organizers teamed up with hundreds of white volunteers to take on the structures of power, and how did the disappearance of these three men finally make the nation? Take a hard look at what was happening in Mississippi. For history anytime anywhere sign up for a free trial of history volt. Stream. Full episodes of over two thousand award, winning history documentaries and series all commercial free on your favorite device. Plus new videos added to the vault every week. Sign up now and explore the greatest stories in history. From ancient civilizations to American history, modern warfare and more. To Start Your free trial visit history vault dot com today. Cheney at Schwerin and Goodman were initial county that day in June to investigate an act of violence. The Ku, Klux. Klan had attacked a church that had been gathering place for civil rights activists. They set the building on fire and then beat up black parishioners as they tried to flee. This kind of thing wasn't rare in Mississippi. The state had the highest rate of lynchings of any state in the nation. The perpetrators of violence were lawyers, judges sheriffs doctors. Black Mississippians had to fear for their lives and most were forced to live in extreme poverty. That day in June nineteen sixty four. The burning of Mount, Zion Church was just the latest in an unending string of violent attacks. People were fed up and tired. It fell to three twenty something men two of whom had grown up in New York to investigate this crime. And to understand that part of the story yet meet Bob Moses. If you own New York City, and where Yankees Stadium is on the edge of the Harlem with We moved in there when I was two years old. Moses spent his formative years in New York City. then. He went to Hamilton College where he was one of very few black students in nineteen sixty. He's in his mid twenties. He's a high school math teacher and he's following the unfolding civil rights movement. I watched newspapers with the pictures of the sitting kids that were all of sudden young black kids appearing on the front page of the New York Times it never. Before and I felt like well, I have to see this up close. Lot of the action is taking place far away in the south. And Moses decides to go down and get involved that summer. He ends up taking a bus trip through the south to help recruit people to the cause and there. He sees violence. That hasn't been making the front page. For example in Birmingham was just. Bombing. In a black neighborhood and none of the news. Available. Just working. On that same trip, Moses's travels into the very heart of racist violence in the south. Mississippi! In. Cleveland Mississippi in Doubt Better Net MT Moore. Who actually knew what to do? He said you know there's there's no particular reason to come and sit in the delta, but is every reason to work on voter registration. At the time there were about one point, two million white people living in Mississippi, and just over nine hundred thousand black people, but only about five percent of the state's black population was registered to vote. Some counties didn't have a single registered black voter for a reason. If you registered to vote. Your name would be printed in the paper, and that might make you a target for violence and intimidation. You could be fired evicted even killed, and it blew my mind. Guy I've been listening. You know all through college and I graduated everywhere about behind the curtain. Need for the people behind it. Vote and everything. No one ever mentioned. We had a whole congressional district on majority black and nobody was folding. So I signed up I said Tansy. I'M GONNA. Come back and work with you by the way Amsi more. The man Moses just mentioned. He's a civil rights leader, and one of dozens of people Moses credited in our interview. I mentioned but. VACO change Denver retained on door. Tanking Jones. Close. Most is a civil rights icon, though not necessarily a household name and in our interview, it became clear that he's the type of leader who doesn't see himself working alone. He kept crediting this huge network of people all working together. Moses ends up moving to Mississippi and starts registering voters alongside Amsi more and many others. They're working at a very grassroots level, and in the country at large in the early sixty s, the civil rights movement is picking up steam. In August, nineteen, sixty three. There's the famous march on Washington where Dr Martin Luther King makes this I. Have a dream speech. But Mississippi really feels like a place apart. Through his work Moses is becoming intimately acquainted with the violence there. He's been beat up by the highway patrol. He's seen friends and colleagues murdered without consequences, and that drives home to him this difficult truth. To black people was not important country. What happens to way, kids I'd prestigious universities. This becomes the seed of a powerful political idea. Tell me about the idea for the summer project. Where did that come from well? That's the interesting part because we weren't really into well. Who's idea is this? that. The idea was this. What, if we bring privilege white students into Mississippi to help with voter registration efforts. What kind of extra attention could that bring to the cause? Of the economy and building among black people in Mississippi. Was You so? socially. Culturally revolutionary, it added never happened. And, so they brought the country with. And the country. They are. Forced to take a look at itself. Just doing that? Was a goal. Among the black organizers, this idea was controversial to this day to well, that should never happen. Fast members felt that this was sort of the project, and that was important that it was really run by Young African American. She'll send creatures, but we actually position to see if we get a much larger commitment. A commitment from white people around the country. Who didn't seem to care about what was happening in Mississippi? And so in the summer of nineteen, sixty four, the organizers launch the Mississippi Summer Project later called freedom summer. In June about eight, hundred white, mostly middle class. Students gather on a college campus in Ohio for training. They'll be taught by experienced black organizers. Among the white students is heather booth an eighteen year old from New York. We talked to her about what it was like in Ohio. So they were role plays that we were subjected to where we there had to act as the white racists, calling other freedom workers, attacking them, and then also playing volunteers. Not Succumbing violence ourselves and the overall importance of just protecting people's lives. There were also talks about the history and politics of Mississippi at one white volunteers saw a video of a weight registrar in the state who prevented black voters from exercising their rights, and he's a huge guy. You know maybe two hundred pounds. The volunteers burst out laughing and that the settle feel tech occurs. This person wasn't a joke, but a real serious impediment to their freedom. They knew him personally. There was a real tension that many felt. In, part the question of learning about each other's cultures and background in the history, but also making sure the white northern students understood the black people have Mississippi were the people who were taking the risks. They were the people who were doing the work doing the work for years and as white volunteers we were there to help and support that we were not coming down with the arrogance that we often had of to show into teach to tell the people of Mississippi what we knew, and that tension broke out in one of the large plenary sessions that we had where some of the blacks Nick Staff. said. That we would be sacrificial lambs. I was stunned by that. On June twentieth the first wave of volunteers heads down to Mississippi the next day. Moses gets a terrible phone call. Cheney Sh- Werner and goodman are missing. Assumed dead. Beverly Student. Food? At that time, Heather and the rest of her training class are still in Ohio. And they gather to hear Bob Moses. Address the volunteers. Were Bob convened us into. One of these auditorium centers sections. To tell us that three of the young volunteers. Were missing. They probably were dead. Because they about to walk into it. And pay half to understand that this is real. So I basically talked to them. In a way I thought maybe they might relate to, because they will read tokens up it. I remember. He told us the story. Of The Lord of the Rings and out power can corrupt and distort people's views. And the impression I got is that we're really in a struggle for people's lives for the sharing of power. And then we have Somebody's saying on, and then they had to think through. But if they could stay on. Because, you know, you can't do political rally cry and say we're GONNA, do. It's just the opposite. Insight you. You Up to. Every person there to go inside him or herself. And to get that out. What's important that they do that? On their own. Some. Be Real introduction. And if anything it increased my commitment. And My will to. Almost every single one of them stayed. I didn't know what to expect actually, so it's not that I was surprised by it. I was gratified. Deeply gratified by it. And I think that. head to staff. This felt like the beginning of that broader commitment organizers had hoped for. The eight hundred students had to face the fact that their lives were at stake. and. They went to Mississippi Anyway. The cause was worth dying for. A few days after Moses's speech, the second wave of volunteers leaves Ohio. Getting to know each other on the bus, a lot of chatting remember they're teenagers. There was a lot of singing singing always helped. Bind us together. And meanwhile every news outlet in the country is reporting on the three missing men. And the idea that now all these other young white college kids might be danger, prompted parents all over a immediately began wearing that Congress people White House. You know. Their daughter son. That's going down to this place where people at the end up. One hundred and fifty F. B. I.. Agents have been dispatched to Mississippi to launch an investigation into the disappearances. And in Washington, DC president Lyndon B, Johnson is under pressure. He's been in the Oval Office for less than a year. He'd been Kennedy's vice president up until the assassination and Johnson is facing a big piece of legislation. The Civil Rights Act. It will offer significant protections for black Americans, but for Johnson signing. This bill is politically risky. He faces an election in the fall, and it will be his first time running at the top of the ticket. To win, he'll need at southern voters. Voters who will almost certainly turn on him if he signs the Civil Rights Act, but with the media coverage on the growing outrage over these disappearances. There is intense pressure from the civil rights movement and its supporters to pass the act. Less than two weeks after Cheney at Schwerin. Her and Goodman wanted missing. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law. It's a huge victory for the movement right at the beginning of freedom summer. But in Mississippi. The project is really just getting started. We spent a lot of time getting. People signed up getting ready to go down to the courthouse and register to vote. When we brought them down and supported. They're taking this courageous steps to register. We were arrested. The volunteers were arrested and we were held overnight. All over the state, local government and the Klan are working to prevent voter registration. But progress is being made. Over one thousand black voters get registered summer. Forty freedom schools are teaching literacy and black history and sparking conversations about civics and activism and government. The. White volunteers are living side by side with block families and block activists. Meanwhile. The FBI is investigating the disappearances, and as they search for Cheney showed and Goodman. They find something else. became drought to shovel murders. Of Young. Boys. Discovered women started investigating. Eight bodies are found. None of them is Cheney, Schnur or Goodman. All of them are young black men whose murders hadn't been investigated. Today we still only know three of their names. Henry de. Charles Moore. And Herbert Ormsby. In the shadow of continued violence, while volunteers continue to focus on grassroots activism. Bob Moses and other leaders decide to focus on a national plan. I spent a lot of time working on. Conventional Challenge? The convention challenge the Democratic National. Convention is set to happen that August in Atlantic City and Mississippi's delegation is completely white. They're known as the DIXIECRATS and they've threatened to turn Republican. They're angry that Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. So civil rights leaders see an opportunity. If the dixiecrats leave, someone could take their place. They've been organizing this new political party run by black voters the Mississippi. Freedom Democratic Party, and they decide. Let's see the MVP, at the convention. Then FTP holds local elections with newly registered black voters to pick delegates. And in August, they're ready. And they had up to Atlantic city. If you are enjoying history this week you should check out flashback a new podcast from the IHEART radio podcast network, and Ozzy. The creators of the Chart Topping Webby nominated podcast the thread, the law of unintended consequences is a simple, but often misunderstood rule of universe. Flashback explores the reasons. Some of our best laid plans have gone ride from policy making too personal lives from the courtroom to the environment, and it reveals those surprising stories that the history books never told you about Ozzy's. Sean Braswell takes on a journey through history that will change how you look at the world today. Listen to flashback on the iheartradio, apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I WANNA! Tell you about another podcast. I think you'll like. It's the last archive from Harvard. Historian and New Yorker Writer Jill Lepore. Lepore asks the question who killed troop. She looks for clues in events across the twentieth century from a brutal death in Vermont to the invention of the lie detector to the release of the polio vaccine. This show is unlike anything you've heard before its history animated by archival tapes and documents, intrepid field, reporting and old timey radio drama reenactments. The last archive unfurled like a Classic Nineteen Thirties gumshoe mystery, but it takes on the big issues of today. Wouldn't you like to know who killed truth? Subscribe in Apple podcasts or wherever you listen brought to you by Pushkin Industries. The NF DP is ready for their big showdown on the convention floor. But two days before the convention, they get some terrible news. The bodies of Schnur Chaney and Goodman have been found. Buried in an earthen dam on the property of known clan member. They already knew the men were dead, but the discovery of their bodies brings even more clarity to the movement at the convention. And it brings more national support to their cause. On the boardwalk outside activists, full posters of the three slain civil rights workers. And inside. They make their case to the credentials. Committee will get to decide who the official delegates will be. The strategy was to go before the credentials committee and the start course. Sandy Lou Hamer had grown up in share cropping family in the Mississippi Delta when he tried to register to vote, she'd been beaten and shot at. She's still registered, but then she was fired and evicted. G become an importance of rights organizer and at the Convention. She gives this powerful testimony. She sits at a table with her hands folded in front of her speaking to this Sea of white faces. I WanNa mail. The law of the home of the brave. We have to sneak. Without a phone. Call. The, reading! The Post. Season human beings at a math. The. Testimony is broadcast on national TV. But in the Middle President Johnson holds an emergency press conference. That day marks the nine month aniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. Seemingly he's just trying to get. Fannie Lou Hamer's Syrian speech off the air, but it backfired because they replayed speech that night on the three networks. We only had network thin. The activists have momentum. They feel like they might win. And Johnson is worried. He thinks that seating the MVP could lose him the entire southern vote in the upcoming election. He's working behind the scenes to wrap this up quickly and quietly. A one point Moses and other leaders get called into a meeting with representatives from the DNC apparently to talk about a compromise. A. And having Henry Indie, March, thirteen or ten in the middle of this. They're not doing the reporters all outside. Are Now to at it has already eappen there could be. Maybe build it. While leaders are in this meeting. A compromise has been officially passed. The MVP will get to quote delegates at large at the convention along with a statement that the Democratic Party stands and opposition to White Supremacy It's a sort of made up olive branch. The term delegates at large doesn't really mean anything. These delegates have no real power. To Moses it's not acceptable. There was. This crew that Pecan those back. And he stoned community at least I did the white dixiecrats are mad to? They refused to make this anti white supremacy statement. Instead they walk out. That night the convention's opening night. The activists decide to organize an auction. They'll be seated at the convention. No matter what it takes, I found. representatives from mid West. African American. LONELY THEIR BADGE and. I wear one. And then make. I don't know twenty or more trips I the. Door. We could go through and one by one. Gordon the members of Bamako P to pick them pension poor. They staged a sit in in Mississippi's open seats. Eventually, some white delegates and security guards surround them and escort them from the hall. The next day when the FDP returns to the convention floor. took away all the chairs. Mississippi and Protect the age and and rounded back. To the old convention. So the activists stand. Facing freedom songs, and at the end of that final day they watch as Lyndon Johnson is officially nominated for president. This loss at the Democratic national, convention becomes freedom. Summers unfortunate end. It comes with a sense of both change and stagnation. On the one hand, the violence and disenfranchisement of block people in Mississippi really is in the national spotlight now. and. Within a year, the voting rights act passes. By nineteen, seventy, roughly sixty seven percent of the block population in Mississippi will be registered to vote. Remember it was about five percent at the beginning of the decade. And the FBI does eventually arrest eighteen of the men who are responsible for the murders of Chaney Sh- Werner and Goodman But on the other hand, none of them serves more than five years in prison. Until two thousand five, when just one of the eighteen is finally charged with murder. He ultimately dies in prison in two thousand eighteen. He was ninety two. Many of the people that his crimes impacted didn't live to see justice done. So the legacy of freedom summer never really been. A particular lated in a way that I think the justice. First quarter foods and ship. A struggle that goes on to this day fifty six years later as protests have spread across the country police brutality. The names of George Floyd and Brianna. Taylor and Aubrey are some of the most recent that grief-stricken activists are calling out as they demand justice. The idea of citizenship has never been. Fairly realize for African Americans in. The population in the country from the very beginning, and so part of the legacy. Is the idea that. We the people that coach to. People. Should actually reach down and embrace. Everybody a crude in. African Americans. The legacy of freedom summer he says is an idea. Not yet a reality. Thanks for listening to history this week for more moments throughout history that are also worth watching. Check your local TV listings to find out what's on history today. and. We've been talking about voter registration. Don't underestimate the power of your vote for more information. You can go to vote Dot Org and learn about your upcoming local elections. This podcast is produced by me. Linh Ama-, Fredericks Julie mcgruder Bendix teen and meet Sally Helm. Ar- editor and sound designer is Chris. Yellow are executive. Producers are Jesse cats and Ted Butler. Don't forget to subscribe rate and review history this week. Wherever you get your podcasts and we will see you next week.