“I’m going down to Mississippi
I’m going down a Southern road
And if you never see me again
Remember that I had to go”
- Lyrics from Going Down to Mississippi
In 1964, less than 7% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote. In many rural counties, African Americans made up the majority of the population and the segregationist white establishment was prepared to use any means necessary to keep them away from the polls and out of elected office. For years, local civil rights workers had tried to increase voter registration amongst African Americans. Those who wished to vote had to face the local registrar, an all-powerful white functionary who would often publish their names in the paper and pass the word on to their employers and bankers. And if loss of jobs and the threat of violence wasn’t enough to dissuade them, the complex and arcane testing policies were certain to keep them off the rolls.
In 1964, a plan was hatched by Bob Moses, a local secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For 10 weeks, white students from the North would join activists on the ground for a massive effort that would do what had been impossible so far: force the media and the country to take notice of the shocking violence and massive injustice taking place in Mississippi. It was a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in what was one of the nation’s most viciously racist, segregated states.
For more information on this film, please visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/