1964 at 50: Remembering and Reassessing the Mississippi Summer Project

FreedomSummerMississippi

1964 at 50: Remembering and Reassessing the Mississippi Summer Project

One of my favorite sessions I attended at the 2014 Organization of American Historians meeting was ‘1964 at 50: Remembering and Reassessing the Mississippi Summer Project.’ Fortunately American History TV (a.k.a. CSPAN-3) recorded the event and you can view the session in its entirety here. Below is summary information about the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project and a short bio for each of the panelists.

I wish each of the panelists had more time to share their experiences.


Panelists: Rita Bender, Charles Cobb,  and Dorie Ladner

The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. During that tumultuous summer, which saw both the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the first in a long series of ghetto insurrections, some 800 college students came to Mississippi at the invitation of the Congress of Federated Organizations (COFO), in a concerted campaign to awaken the federal government, and the nation as a whole, to the violent racial oppression that still prevailed in the last great citadel of Jim Crow. The summer produced both triumph and tragedy: the launch of Freedom Schools but also the murder of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman outside Philadelphia, Mississippi; the passage of the Civil Rights Act but also the bitter disillusionment sown by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s unsuccessful challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention at Atlantic City. This panel brings together veterans of the Summer Project to reflect on its history, legacy, and lessons. James T. Campbell, Edgar Robinson Professor of History at Stanford University and author of a forthcoming book on the Mississippi Movement in History and Memory, will moderate.

Rita Bender was a member of CORE in New York City, where she participated in the campaign against discrimination in the building trades. In January, 1964, she and her husband Michael Schwerner went to Mississippi as field staff for CORE. They were assigned to Meridian, where they worked as community organizers, developing a community center and participating in voter registration efforts. After the murder of her husband, Bender continued to work with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in its credentials challenge at the 1964 Democratic Convention, and later in its challenge to the seating of Mississippi’s congressional delegation. Bender graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1968, and continues to practice law and to teach. She and her present husband, Bill Bender, taught at the University of Mississippi in 2009-10, and they are currently teaching a course on the deliberate denial of education at Seattle University School of Law.

Charles E. Cobb, Jr. came to Mississippi in 1962, after finishing his freshman year at Howard University. He became a field secretary for SNCC, a position he held until 1967, working chiefly in Sunflower, Washington, and Leflore Counties. It was Cobb who proposed the creation of “Freedom Schools,” one of the signature initiatives of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. After leaving Mississippi, he became a journalist, working as a staff member at National Public Radio and the National Geographic Society and as senior writer and diplomatic correspondent at AllAfrica.com. Currently a visiting professor in Africana Studies at Brown University, Cobb is the author of Radical Equations: Civil Rights From Mississippi to the Algebra Project (coauthored with Robert Moses), On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Right’s Trail, and the forthcoming This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed.

Dorie Ladner was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she became active in the local youth chapter of the NAACP. After finishing high school, she enrolled at Jackson State University, where she and her sister Joyce were mentored by Medgar Evers, chief field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. Expelled from Jackson State, she began working with SNCC, serving as project director in Natchez and as a founding member of COFO. After leaving Mississippi, she continued to work as a community organizer, first in St. Louis and later in Washington DC, where she earned a Masters degree in Social Work, a profession she practiced for thirty years before her retirement. Ladner has the distinction of having participated in many of the signature marches of the Civil Rights movement, including the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965, and the Poor People’s March of 1968.

 

Wyatt Earp gun sells for $225,000 at auction

This undated photo provided by Olson Communications shows a Colt .45 revolver believed to have been carried by Wyatt Earp during the O.K. Corral shootout in Tombstone, Ariz. The gun sold at an auction of of numerous items related to Earp and his family Thursday, April 17, 2014 for $225,000 in Scotsdale, Az. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Olson Communications, Josh Skalniak).

This undated photo provided by Olson Communications shows a Colt .45 revolver believed to have been carried by Wyatt Earp during the O.K. Corral shootout in Tombstone, Ariz. The gun sold at an auction of of numerous items related to Earp and his family Thursday, April 17, 2014 for $225,000 in Scotsdale, Az. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Olson Communications, Josh Skalniak).

Wyatt Earp gun sells for $225,000 at auction

#OAH2014

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April 10-13 is the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA and I’m attending.

Since Atlanta is only 90 minutes away, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

I’ll be Tweeting throughout the conference and sharing my experience in next week’s posting.

Check out @The_OAH and #OAH2014 for updates.

Stay tuned!

🙂

Spring Break in Alabama. . .Cemeteries, Bass Fishing, and Camping

Spring Break in Alabama. . .Cemeteries, Bass Fishing, and Camping

Unlike most folks that are on spring break this week, we didn’t make our usual pilgrimage to the beach. This year we are staying just outside the small Alabama town of Eufaula. What is so special about Eufaula? It’s the “Bass Capital of the World” and we’re down here with our girls to try and catch “The Big One” but it has eluded us thus far. We went into town for lunch and saw residents and businesses putting the finishing touches on the antebellum homes along main street for the 2014 Eufaula Pilgrimage. On our way back to our campsite we drove through Fairview Cemetery. I love old, historic cemeteries and this one did not disappoint. . .

Fairvew contains a diverse collection of statuary, grave emblems  and monuments amid a picturesque park-like setting.  Many  monuments are attributed to the Tansey family who owned a  monument company in Eufaula and operated their marble yard  here. The arboretum in this area of the cemetery contains azaleas,  dogwoods, camellias, Japanese maple trees, and 1880s fountain,  and a collection of other ornamental plants and trees. Old  Fairview Cemetery is a reflection of Eufaula's significant history  and heritage.

Fairvew contains a diverse collection of statuary, grave emblems
and monuments amid a picturesque park-like setting. Many
monuments are attributed to the Tansey family who owned a
monument company in Eufaula and operated their marble yard
here. The arboretum in this area of the cemetery contains azaleas,
dogwoods, camellias, Japanese maple trees, and 1880s fountain,
and a collection of other ornamental plants and trees. Old
Fairview Cemetery is a reflection of Eufaula’s significant history
and heritage.

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Established in the 1830s, Fairview has approximately 1300 identified urials and is a memorial to some of Alabama’s most influential leaders. Inside its gates rest governors, lieutenant governors, state and federal elected officials, judges, university presidents, and industrialists. Over 350 identified Confederate soldiers and sailors, from general to private, are buried throughout the cemetery. A Confederate section of unknown soldiers is near the bluff side. Old Fairview is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Seth Lore & Irwinton Historic District and individually in the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register.

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Unidentified Confederate soldiers.

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Interred on this gently sloping hillside are the remains of many of Eufaula’s early black citizens. Their names are known only to God because the wooden grave markers which located the burials have long since vanished. This burying ground was used until about 1870 when black internments were moved to Pine Grove Cemetery. In addition to the “Old Negro Cemetery”, there are at least five other graveyards including the Jewish, Presbyterian, Masonic, Odd Fellows, and Public which are part of present day Fairview Cemetery.

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The earliest burials in this cemetery date from Eufaula’s pioneer days in the lae 1830’s and early 1840’s. Formerly known as the “Old Cemetery”, this public burial ground has been expanded through land purchases and the consolidation of other cemeteries including the Jewish, Presbyterian, Masonic, Odd Fellows, and Negro. At the suggestion of his daughter, Claude Hill, Mayor P.B. McKenzie named the cemetery “Fairview” about 1895. The iron fence which borders the property on North Randolph Avenue was salvaged from Union Female College.

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James M. Folsom Company A 1st Alabama Infantry CSA (Confederate States of America)