During the summer of 1964, the nation’s eyes were riveted on Mississippi. Over 10 memorable weeks known as Freedom Summer, more than 700 student volunteers joined with organizers and local African Americans in an historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in the nation’s most segregated state. Working together, they canvassed for voter registration, created Freedom Schools, and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, with the goal of challenging the segregationist state Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. The campaign was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches and the bombing of 70 homes and Freedom Houses.
On June 24th, PBS' American Experience will mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer with the premiere of the NEH-funded documentary Freedom Summer. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders, The Murder of Emmett Till), Freedom Summer highlights an overlooked but essential element of the civil rights movement: the patient and long-term efforts by outside activists
and local citizens in Mississippi to organize communities and register black voters — even in the face of intimidation, physical violence and death. “The Freedom Summer story reminds us that the movement that ended segregation was far more complex than most of us know,” says American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels.