Freedom Summer 1964: Remembering the Past, Building the Future

On-air date: 
Sun, 07/20/2014

Fifty years ago, more than a thousand mostly young people from the North joined thousands of black Mississippians in a courageous campaign to win voting rights for African-Americans. Of course, the campaign was about more than voting.  In bringing together whites and blacks as social equals in a campaign led by the Southern Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and other predominately black  organizations, Freedom Summer was a direct challenge to Mississippi’s white supremacist social order. Segregationists responded as they always have—with violence. The murders of civil rights workers shocked the nation and directed attention to a state where violent repression of African-Americans was almost routine.

Freedom Summer did not end the Jim Crow system in the South, but it galvanized a movement that would bring that day much closer. Thousands of black Mississippians participated in Freedom Schools, where they learned the basics of political organizing while honing their skills at reading, writing and arithmetic. Many participated in the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which directly challenged the legitimacy of the whites-only Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. 

For both white and black participants, the experiences of that summer were life changing. Joining Truth to Tell co-hosts Siobahn Kierens and Tom O'Connell to recount his experience as a participant in Mississippi Freedom Summer is Dean Zimmermann. Zimmermann is well known to citizens of Minneapolis.  He served 10 years on the Minneapolis Park Board and represented the 6th Ward on the Minneapolis City Council from 2002-2005 as a member of the Green Party.

Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison will be joining us for the second half of the hour to discuss the legacy of Freedom Summer. First elected to Congress in 2006, Ellison is one of our country’s strongest advocates for economic equality and racial justice.

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On-air guests: 

Freedom Summer activist and former Minneapolis City Council Member Dean Zimmermann.

Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison.