September 2-december 6, 2014 ~ Gallery guide
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How was Freedom Summer different from the Freedom Rides? The Freedom Ride movement arose out of the 1960 Supreme Court ruling in the Boynton vs. Virginia case that ruled all segregated interstate travel illegal. In early 1961, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) activist, Tom Gaither, proposed a “Freedom Ride” through Rock Hill, South Carolina and elsewhere in the Deep South to test and implement the Boynton decision. On May 4, James Farmer of CORE led the first Freedom Ride of seven African Americans and six Whites from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. Many of the Riders were beaten and arrested. In one instance, klansmen set fire to a bus and beat anyone who fled. Afraid of more violence, both Greyhound and Trailways bus drivers refused to serve Freedom Riders. The Kennedy administration did nothing to protect the Riders. However, with the help of Attorney General Robert Kennedy the CORE Riders finally reached New Orleans by airplane. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) continued CORE’s mission. From May through August more than 60 Freedom Rides occurred across the South. By the end of the summer over 300 Riders had been jailed and brutalized in Mississippi’s Parchman Penitentiary, the notorious prison farm. Finally, in November 1961, President Kennedy had the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) issue another desegregation order mandating equality on buses, in bus terminals, restrooms, drinking fountains and lunch counters. Though a federal decree was made declaring segregation of public transportation illegal, the enforcement of such an order was tough--especially in the South.
The burned remains of a Greyhound bus following an attack by members of the Klu Klux Klan, near Anniston, Alabama, May 14, 1961. Source: www.npr.org
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Why Western College for Women? The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, more commonly known as Freedom Summer, began with volunteer training at Oxford, Ohio’s Western College for Women. Ironically, Western College was chosen as a second option to host the training. Kentucky’s Berea College, located two hours south of Cincinnati, was the initial choice. However, due to Kentucky’s history as a slave state and concerns with heightening racial tensions in the South, Western College was chosen as a more “welcoming” climate. For two weeks in the summer of 1964 (June 14-20 and June 21-27) nearly 900 students, teachers and activists flooded Western College. There they prepared for the arduous journey of assisting African-American Mississippians overcome the daily denial of their civil rights. At Western College volunteers not only prepared themselves to empower and educate the AfricanAmerican community but also how to protect themselves in the uncertain danger that was to come. They learned African-American history and how to overcome the inevitable cultural barriers they were to encounter in the South. They also endured simulated mob training and how to survive in the “Mississippi police state” where violence and intimidation were a daily occurrence. These men and women from mostly white, privileged households knowingly put themselves in harm’s way to fight for the most basic of human rights...Freedom.
Herbert Randall, Entrance of Western College for Women, Oxford, Ohio, June 21-27, 1964, Gelatin Silver Print.
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What was the Council of Federated Organizations? The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) was a conglomeration of all the national civil rights organizations active in Mississippi, “local political and action groups and some fraternal and social organizations.” Created after the Freedom Rides of 1961, in a successful effort to obtain a meeting with then Governor Ross Barnett, COFO was used as a vehicle to channel voter registration programs to powerless AfricanAmerican Mississippians. The leadership of COFO knew that the only way for African Americans in the South, particularly Mississippi, to destroy racial oppression and become truly integrated into society was through civic engagement, thus voter education was their main aim.
A chalkboard showing the day’s activities at a COFO community center. Source: www.crmvet.org
Between 1961 and 1964, COFO underwent various changes that bolstered its effectiveness. By hiring a full-time staff and collaborating with the NAACP, SNCC, CORE and SCLC, COFO was able to obtain more funding and support for the advancement of civil rights in Mississippi. In 1964, Dr. Aaron E. Henry, State president of the NAACP, was COFO’s president. Bob Moses, Field Secretary and Mississippi Project director for SNCC, the Program Director, and Dave Dennis, a Mississippi Field Secretary for CORE was Assistant Program Director. In order to best serve the needs of the down-trodden African-American masses in Mississippi COFO divided its community programs into two major areas: voter’s activities, and educational and social activities. Voter’s Activities—COFO’s primary objective was voter education. The organization believed that a “broadly-based and informed electorate” was the means by which “Mississippi’s system of racial oppression [could] be destroyed ultimately.” Voters activities included neighborhood canvassing, mass meetings and citizenship classes to explain the difficult registration form. Educational and Social activities—These emerged out of an urgent necessity to fulfill the neglected needs of African-American Mississippians. Such programs included the Freedom Schools, Federal programs (which served as a liaison between national and state agencies), a literacy project, work study, food, clothing and shelter provision, and community centers.
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The Dangers of Freedom Summer The danger that the volunteers could face in Mississippi was real. In a 24-hour period alone there were 12 incidents of violence reported to the COFO office in Jackson, Mississippi. Verbal assaults, bombings, lynchings, shootings, cross burnings and ambushes were all a daily possibility for African Americans and sympathetic Whites in the South. That is why the training and instruction the volunteers received in Oxford, Ohio, was so essential. But all of the training in the world did not prepare Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner for their untimely end. The three young men were all members of COFO. Schwerner was a white CORE worker from New York City stationed in Meridian, Mississippi. James Chaney was a African-American CORE worker from Meridian. Andrew Goodman was a white Freedom Summer volunteer from New York City. On June 20, the group traveled from Oxford, Ohio, to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Neshoba County to investigate the bombing of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the beating of three African Americans on June 17th. Upon their return to Meridian they were stopped by police, who had been monitoring Schwerner for some time, and took them to the county jail on speeding charges. The men were denied their constitutional right to a phone call and soon COFO workers became worried since the three had not checked in. Eventually they were released from jail, only to be ambushed by the police and the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan took the three hostages to a secluded areas where they beat James Chaney to the point of unrecognition, shot all three men, then buried them in an earthen dam. When the charred remains of Schwerner’s car were dragged from a swamp the Federal government was forced to act and search teams were sent to Mississippi. Southern Whites were incensed at the government’s increased presence in their state. However, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reassured the White masses that there would be no protection for the civil rights workers. During the swamp searches for the missing men, the Navy discovered the remains of eight other African-American men which, unfortunately did not come as a shock to most people in Mississippi. Eventually a paid informant led officials to the three bodies and the men were finally laid to rest, although separately due to Mississippi’s segregationist policies that applied even in death. The national attention that these murders garnered made the racial disparities in the U.S. very clear. African Americans had always been the subject of senseless violence in the South, and the government did nothing to stop it. But the disappearance of two young, White men became national news. The inequity of the situation was disheartening, and even more of a reason for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project volunteers to continue fighting. Nearly 100 volunteers decided to depart Oxford after hearing of the men’s disappearance but most stayed on. And although they feared the dangers ahead, they remained steadfast in their mission. Herbert Randall, Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld after an attack, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, July 10, 1964, Gelatin Silver Print.
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National Impact of Freedom Summer COFO knew that all of its community programs were making positive strides in Mississippi’s African-American communities. However, COFO’s leaders felt that an even greater drive to increase votership was needed, especially with the start of Freedom Summer approaching. It was no secret that Mississippi’s tradition of staunch racism did not allow for a well-informed or active electorate of African-American voters. At the start of 1964 only 6.6% of Mississippi’s African American population was registered to vote. The only way that the state sanctioned racial oppression would be dismantled was through full African American participation in the political process. On April 26, 1964, in Jackson, Mississippi, COFO established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The aim of this party was to challenge the existing Mississippi Democratic Party which was regarded as racist and an entity oppressive to minorities. The number of African Americans in Mississippi greatly outnumbered that of Whites at this time. Thus it was in the best interest of the Whites to do everything possible to exclude African Americans from being politically active otherwise they risked losing their political stronghold. African Americans who attempted to register to vote in Mississippi were routinely threatened with violence, many were killed. Rigged “literacy tests” were also implemented as a tactic used to intimidate, humiliate and exclude potential African-Americans voters. The MFDP was open to citizens of both races, but especially African Americans who desired an experience in which they had been excluded. The MFDP set out to challenge the seating of the Mississippi delegates at the National Democratic Convention of 1964 on the basis that they were unconstitutionally elected by a segregated electorate. As a part of the Freedom Summer activities the MFDP conducted a Freedom Registration, a simplified voter’s registration, which resulted in voters electing four Freedom Candidates: Fannie Lou Hamer, James Monroe Houston, Victoria Jackson Gray and Rev. John E. Cameron. In August, the candidates went to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, hoping to represent Mississippi instead of the biased and unjustly elected Mississippi Democratic Party delegates. At the convention Mrs. Hamer addressed the credentials committee on national television, exposing the harsh realities that African Americans faced in Mississippi. Afraid of upsetting his Southern supporters President Johnson interrupted her speech with an unexpected broadcast. However, the footage of Hamer’s speech was re-aired that night nationwide. Ultimately, the MFDP delegation was not seated. They were offered two “atlarge” seats which were symbolic positions with no voting power. The offer was refused. The MFDP challenge proved that African Americans were intelligent enough to organize and advocate for their own rights. It also showed that a local, grassroots movement could garner national attention. Most importantly, it provided momentum for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that reinforced the aims that the MFDP and Freedom Summer worked to obtain.
Left: Herbert Randall, Gracie Hawthorne sitting in front of the COFO Headquarters, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1964, Gelatin Silver Print. Facing Right Top: Herbert Randall, Victoria Jackson Gray and Sandy Leigh, Palmer’s Crossing, Mississippi, 1964, Gelatin Silver Print. Facing Right Bottom: Herbert Randall, MFDP (Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party) Sign on a tree, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1964, Gelatin Silver Print.
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COFO (Council of Federated Organizations)—A conglomeration of all of the national civil rights groups working in Mississippi. CORE (Congress of Racial Equality)—An interracial organization that pioneered the sit-in movement and preached Gandhi’s non-violence strategies.
Key People Vernon Dahmer—A wealthy businessman from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He offered to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee required to vote. As a result, his home was firebombed. Dahmer died later from severe burns. Dave Dennis—A Mississippi Field Secretary for CORE who was active in the Freedom Rides of 1961. He was elected COFO Assistant Program Director. Medgar Evers—NAACP’s first Field Secretary in Mississippi and one of the original organizers of COFO. He was murdered on June 12, 1963, for his activism in the community. Victoria Jackson Gray—A teacher from Palmers Crossing, Mississippi, who helped to found the MFDP. In 1964, she became the first woman to seek a U.S. Senate seat from Mississippi when she challenged the all-White delegation at the Democratic National Convention.
MFDP (Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party)— Created as a response to Mississippi’s all-White Democratic delegation, which was said to be racist and not representative of the entire State. NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)—Formed by the merging of progressive Whites and upper class African Americans to fight against lynching and eventually segregation. SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference)—A support network of African American Churches to assist localized Southern freedom activity created by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)—A group of mostly Southern African American youths who advocated for peaceful protests and non-violent direct action. WATS (Wide Area Telephone Service)
Fannie Lou Hamer—A sharecropper from Ruleville, Mississippi, Hamer was a founding member of the MFDP. Her speech at the 1964 Democratic National convention was televised and it opened people’s eyes to the state of race relations in America. Aaron Henry—President of both the Mississippi NAACP branches and COFO, he was instrumental in forming COFO. He helped organize the first Freedom Vote in 1963. Sandy Leigh—A SNCC WATS team member from Connecticut. When a SNCC Field Secretary had to leave Mississippi, Leigh took over the position as the Hattiesburg Project Director and grew that project to be the largest of the Freedom Summer initiative. He successfully brought Herbert Randall to Freedom Summer. Bob Moses—An educator from New York City who served as a SNCC Field Secretary and Program Director in Mississippi. He was elected COFO’s Program Director. His experiences led him to be one of the primary supporters of Freedom Summer.
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1964 Timeline January 22—Freedom Day, a mass mobilization of locals and leaders to peacefully register African-American voters in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. March 16—President Lyndon Baines Johnson submits his War on Poverty plan to Congress.
A r t Muse u m Staff Robert S. Wicks, Ph.D., Director
Jason E. Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions Cynthia Collins, Curator of Education
April 13—At the 36th Academy Awards, Sidney Poitier becomes the first AfricanAmerican man to receive the Oscar for Best Actor.
Mark DeGennaro, Preparator/Operations Manager
April 26—The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is founded in Jackson, Mississippi.
Debbie Caudill, Program Assistant
June 13—The first session of Freedom Summer training begins at the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. June 21—Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman disappear in Philadelphia, Mississippi. July 2—The Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed into law which, among other things, prohibits segregation in public places. August 4—The bodies of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman are found in an earthen dam in Neshoba County, Mississippi. August 7—Congress pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the U.S. goes to war with North Vietnam. August 22—Fannie Lou Hamer gives her speech at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of the MFDP in Atlantic City, New Jersey. October 14—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wins a Nobel Peace Prize. December 4—Federal charges are brought against 21 Mississippi men for violation of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman’s civil liberties—not for their murders. Source: www.pbs.org (American Experience)
Sherri Krazl, Marketing/Communications Laura Stewart, Collections Manager/Registrar
Sue Gambrell, Program Coordinator
Acknowledgements Faces of Freedom Summer Exhibition is cocurated by Sydney Johnson (‘14), an undergraduate in Black World Studies and Social Justice. Faces of Freedom Summer Exhibition graphics designed by Kyle Asperger, Graphic Design student at Miami University.
Fr ee & O pen to All 801 S. Patterson Ave. Oxford, Ohio 45056 (513) 529-2232 MiamiOH.edu/ArtMuseum Gallery ho u rs Tuesday-Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday: 12-5 p.m. Closed Sundays, Mondays, and University HolidayS Construction of the Miami University Art Museum in 1978 was made possible by private contributions to Miami University’s Goals for Enrichment capital campaign in the Mid-1970s. A major gift for the building came as a bequest from Miami alumnus Fred C. Yager, class of 1914. Walter A. Netsch, the museum’s architect, Walter I. Farmer, class of 1935, and Orpha B. Webster generously donated extensive art collections and were all instrumental in developing early support for the museum. The Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
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