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Tune In Tuesdays: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

September 20, 2016
Integration at Mississippi University
Photo caption

Integration at Ole Miss[issippi] Univ[ersity]

Photograph by Marion S. Trikosko. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-04292. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688159/

This post is part of our “Tune In Tuesdays” series, highlighting some of the projects NEH has supported to preserve and provide access to rich audiovisual materials important to humanities research, teaching, and the public interest.  We are also proud to announce a NEH symposium on audiovisual preservation to be held on September 30, 2016, in Washington, D.C.  Information about the event, called Play/back, can be found here.

Fannie Lou Hamer
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Fannie Lou Hamer, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegate, at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey, August 1964

U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-01267. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688126
William Simmons
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Col. William Joseph Simmons, full-length portrait, seated at Table during House committee investigation of the Ku Klux Klan; men standing and seated in background

National Photo Company Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-104018. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/91792441/

In the summer of 1964, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Mississippi civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer declared, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”  Segregation and white supremacy were entrenched in Mississippi, by some accounts the most oppressive state in the nation.  Perhaps because of that, Mississippi activists helped propel the movement for voting and human rights.  In recent years, historians and members of the public have grown increasingly interested in the ways local, grassroots activists drove the national civil rights movement, giving the effort much of its energy and direction.  The University of Southern Mississippi Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, founded in 1971, collects oral histories documenting Mississippi’s history of slavery, disfranchisement, white supremacy, segregation, and violence, and the development of black activism.  Now you can hear politicians, judges, activists, and members of the white opposition discuss desegregation, the Freedom Summer, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, voter registration, as well as the everyday reality of life during Jim Crow.

The Rex theatre for Negro people
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Leland, Miss., in the Delta area. The Rex theatre for Negro people

FSA/OWI Collection (Library of Congress), Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ds-01351 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647035
NAACP
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Holding a poster against racial bias in Mississippi are four of the most active leaders in the NAACP movement, from left: Henry L. Moon, director of public relations; Roy Wilkins, executive secretary; Herbert Hill, labor secretary, and Thurgood Marshall, special counsel

World Telegram & Sun photo by Al. Ravenna. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-122432 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/99401448

Supported by a 2014 Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant, the University of Southern Mississippi commemorated the 50thanniversary of Freedom Summer by digitizing nearly 500 civil rights era interviews and making them available via the university’s Digital Collections and the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive.  The earliest interviews are with people who became nationally recognized activists and leaders in the movement, like Fannie Lou HamerLawrence GuyotAmzie Moore, and James Meredith.  Local agitators G.W. Carney and Willie McSwain discuss the Biloxi Beach Wade-Ins, an effort to desegregate the public beaches.  You can also hear the views of Mississippi Highway Patrol Officers such as Lt. Col. Billie Hughes, who served as a trooper during the height of racial tensions in the state.  Or listen to the recollections of out-of-staters who came into Mississippi in 1964 for Freedom Summer.   Other interviews shed a spotlight on segregationists and members of the white resistance such as Dixiecrat former governor Ross Barnett, Citizens Council leader William J. Simmons, and Ku Klux Klan leader Edward L. McDaniel.  There are also interviews with healthcare professionals and activists, such as physician Aaron Henry, who discusses the contributions of organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Dr. Robert Smith, who worked to end segregated healthcare; and Alvin Fielder, who operated a pharmacy in Meridian, Mississippi, and who boarded slain civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.  Finally, you can view a video produced for the collection’s launch and read stories on the Center’s blog.

DNC Demonstrators, 1964
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African American and white Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party supporters demonstrating outside the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey; some hold signs with portraits of slain civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner

WKL. Photograph by Warren K. Leffler U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ds-05237 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014645505
Free Delegates Now
Photo caption

African American and white supporters of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party holding signs in front of the convention hall at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey

WKL. Photograph by Warren K. Leffler U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ds-05244 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014645513

Funding information

The University of Southern Mississippi received NEH support through Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grants PW-51692-14 and PA-24194-02.

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