Tag Archives: 1964

Freedom Summer, 1964

“Summer project volunteers singing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, June 19, 1964” by Steve Schapiro, from The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68. The volunteers are departing for Mississippi after completing their training sessions in Oxford, Ohio.

This week at the Abbeville Blog, in honor of Black History Month, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the great accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement and at the history that unfolds through its photographs. Steven Kasher’s powerful book The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68, published by Abbeville Press, captures the emotional force and the spirit of the movement in a collection of images that are often terrifying, and always evocative.

Planning for the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964 began in order to rally support and gather votes for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, who were to challenge the whites-only Democratic Party of Mississippi. Close to a thousand white volunteers from elite northern universities traveled to Mississippi to establish Freedom Schools, where students were taught how to overcome oppression and racism through personal awareness, community participation and political action.

From the start, Freedom Summer participants were faced with overwhelming violence: on the first day, three volunteers were murdered, and the violence—including kidnappings, countless beatings and at least four additional murders—continued unchecked against project workers. Steven Kasher describes the importance of “freedom songs,” which would motivate and inspire force in the Project’s volunteers and civil rights workers. “We Shall Overcome,” which became the movement’s anthem, was “sung with arms crossed, hands linked, bodies rocking from side to side. Time and again, the brave words and steady rhythm of the song fostered courage, unity, and hope.”

The Summer Project volunteers and workers succeeded because of their commitment and their community, and their legacy lives on. As Steven Kasher describes:

SNCC and the Freedom Summer Project practiced an existential politics of the personal in action. They taught a new kind of activism and a new way of life to an entire generation. The movements that came later in the 1960s—the black power movement, the peace movement, the student movement, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, the gay rights movement, the alternative-education movement, and others—were all their progeny.

To celebrate Black History Month, we’re offering a discount on this evocative book. Click here and use code CIVIL RIGHTS 2013 at checkout to reduce the price to $25, a savings of over 40% on the list price. Please be sure to click the “redeem coupon” button after you enter code CIVIL RIGHTS 2013 to apply your discount. The code expires on February 28th, so purchase your copy now to take advantage of this great sale.


Click here for more information on The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68, published by Abbeville Press.