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tv   Freedom Summer and Mississippi Civil Rights  CSPAN  August 22, 2014 9:55pm-10:08pm EDT

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it was important, i don't want to belittle it but it took greensboro, oklahoma city, st. louis as well as wichita to finally get justice for all people. >> we did not intend to be the first in anything, we are simply trying to change things locally in our hometown. as a result, i think the fabric of wichita changed for the better. it is continuing to change for the better. it was a great achievement for all of us. i'm happy that i was a part of it. >> just because there might have been the extremity of violence from the lack of human dignity is a lack of human dignity. at alle is no progress and that happens when good men and women choose to tolerate the status quo. it is better to strive for change than to live with the presence when we know that ends could be better.
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>> american history tour continues our look at the civil rights movement. the freedom summer was an effort to register black voters in mississippi. up next, part of a 1964 news conference and then a conversation with the head of the mississippi humanities council. >> we hope to send into 1000ssippi, up to
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teachers, ministers, lawyers, and students from all around the who will engage in what we are calling for reading schools, community center programs, voter registration activities, research work, work in the white committees, and in general, a program designed to open up mississippi to the country. >> did you hear me? >> with freedom summer, the idea was that they needed to track national attention to what was happening mississippi. civil rights activists worry that a lot of their efforts and there is a lot of violence arrested -- against them. the murders and that were
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beatings that were not attracting national attention. if you could bring in outsiders, northerners, whites who had attracted more international attention, then they could show to the rest of the country and the world what needed to change here. they brought down civil rights activists to come help in this process and indeed they attracted a great deal of national attention. ofgically, with the murders michael schwerner. they really focused. from 1960 nine to 1965, this was the headquarters of the council of federated organizations which was the group that oversaw and ran freedom summer here. this was a partnership of several different civil rights organizations.
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you had the student nonviolent coordinating committee, there was the naacp, there was the sdlc. all of these different groups decided that they could achieve much more working together. they've partnered on doing voter registration work and civil rights activism across the state. mississippi had a reputation quite rightfully as the most the civilplace for rights movement to make progress. there was a very interesting notion of white supremacy. blacks were disempowered economically, politically. the the real focus was voter registration. understanding the political power that stemmed from the vote was most appropriate focus and goal for them here in mississippi. wasof the issues demographics. there were counties in the state that were black majority and so
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african-americans have the right to vote, they would in a sense be able to control that county politically. the stakes were higher on the part of whites trying to keep themselves in charge. it was the nerve center. cofo at offices all over the state. they brought activists into mississippi and sent them to small towns around the state. it was a community-organizing model. you had civil rights volunteers, workers stand out around the state. all of that process was headquartered here in jackson. some estimates, over half of the white civil rights workers were from the north were jews. they said if it everyone is not free in this country, no one is free. even though it did not help them in a personal, direct way, they felt they needed to do what they could to cure this injustice.
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it is sad to admit that it was the whiteness of goodman to help attracted the attention. there would be african people that would be murdered that did not attract the same amount of attention. when they went missing, it attracted attention. when the bodies were found, it was a very somber sign of the significance of the work and the dangers that all these activists endured. >> it was 31st of august in 1962 that 18 of us traveled 26 miles
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to the county courthouse to try to register to become first-class citizens. we were met by policemen, highway patrolman, and they only allowed two of us in to take the literature test. >> the idea behind freedom summer was to focus on the vote. at the time, mississippi was essentially a one-party state. that party was the democratic party. african-americans were generally not allowed to vote in the democratic primary. part of that had to do with various laws on the books that were disfranchisement laws that prevented blacks from joining and what was the literacy tests, and it can be hard for an african-american was quite educated to pass that literary test because it was subjective. the voter registrar could fail
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someone be even though they're qualified. effectively, if you african-americans voted in mississippi even though they were a sick give him part of the population. they thought, if we cannot vote in the primary, we will create our own party. unlike the regular party, they would be open to all candidates, black and white. part of the summer's focus was to organize people around the state to take part in this freedom vote. quite famously, they brought their own delegation to the national convention in atlantic city in 1964. they challenge the actual credentials of the mississippi regular democratic party saying they were discriminatory. that was a famous event in which they testified in front of the
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credentials committee and found what they experience in mississippi and the hardships. most famously, a former sharecropper talked about being beaten during the midst of her efforts to organize people to vote.
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>> that testimony was so compelling, watched by a national audience. president johnson called an impromptu news conference to cut off coverage of this testimony. what ended up happening in atlantic city is they had a compromise. bailout two chisam large from the mississippi freedom democratic party to be counted, but the mf tp was not satisfied with the two seats and walked out. so did the all-why democratic delegation. they too walked out in protest. coming after that, the rules change. by 1968, there could no longer be discrimination in the democratic party primary process. it had a big impact. in 1965, it was the pastor of the voting acts right, which helped alleviate a lot of those laws that prevented lakhs from voting. much of the national attention in history is given to freedom
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summer, 1965, which the march in selma and the passage of the voting rights act. too often people think it is the end of the story. in mississippi, the real story almost gens after that. it is after the laws have been passed, after you have the voting's right act, after the civil rights act that bans segregation, now what? what does that mean? how will the loss play out in local communities? in every county in mississippi, you have the question -- ok. african-americans have the right to vote. who will be elected? there was a bit of rearguard action that try to limit black voting rights. there was an effort to redraw the state legislative districts to limit black power. there is a lot that takes place that people do not realize. how these changes eventually came to transform the state. it takes place after 1964 and 1965. freedom summer in 1964 is
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essential in helping to understand the passage of the voting rights act. it was a really important catalyst across mississippi in the south. i think would've the important things about these anniversaries is that it brings a lot of attention and people who come down and they see that mississippi has changed a lot. certainly there is lot of progress yet to make. my sense of it is that it was worse back then the most people realize but that it is better now than most people realize outside of the state. i think you will see kind of an embrace of these returning activists. i know the freedom riders came back. they were welcomed to the governor's mansion and the governor apologize for the state's actions towards them at that time. i think mississippi has a sense that the history is very important. it is one that for a long time was abated and conflicted, but i

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