A summer of turmoil and triumph
JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Special to the AmNews | 6/27/2012, 4:11 p.m.
The three had been investigating a church bombing in Philadelphia, Miss., when they were arrested June 14, 1964, for a bogus traffic violation, then released. It was the last time they were seen alive. Klansmen caught up with the three and murdered them, burying the bodies beneath a 15-foot earthen dam. They were found 44 days later.
The murder of the three young men outraged the country and caused a surge of support for the campaign, but it also caused conflicts within the organization. Many Black volunteers were angry that the incident got so much attention just because two of the victims were white, while Blacks' murders had routinely gone unnoticed. The federal government and media were concerned about the safety of white student volunteers, while the cause that brought them to Mississippi, the brutal suppression of Black rights, went unpunished.
The murder also went unpunished until 2005, when Klansman Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of masterminding the killings. This was the first time a civil rights case was successfully prosecuted in Mississippi.
By the end of the Freedom Summer, seven volunteers had been killed. Freedom School buildings were the targets of bombings and burnings, as were 37 Black churches and 30 Black homes and businesses. More than 1,000 workers were arrested and beaten.
Those sacrifices were not in vain. On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed. On Aug. 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed, enforcing the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, giving full voting rights to Blacks.
Freedom Summer must always be remembered in honor of the courageous men and women, both Black and white, who dared to stare down Jim Crow. The events of that summer marked a milestone in the fight for civil rights for Black people. Freedom Summer is a lasting example of how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
- Look It Up: Use the Internet or other reference source to learn more about Freedom Summer and the people and events that made it happen.
- Talk About It: In addition to being a catalyst for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, what other positive permanent changes resulted from Freedom Summer?
- Write It Down: After researching and discussing the events mentioned in this article, write an essay about the importance of Freedom Summer and your feelings about the event.
This Week in Black History
- June 19, 1865: Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, is first celebrated as the last of the nation's slaves are freed in Galveston, Texas.
- June 20, 1911: The NAACP, which was founded in February of 1909, is incorporated in New York.
- June 23, 2007: Anthony Reed becomes the first African-American to complete a 26.2-mile marathon on every continent.
Enjoy your summer vacation. Be sure to enjoy a few good books or read more about any of the events discussed in this article or others that appeared previously. You can check them out at www.amsterdamnews.com.
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