From The Collection: Images from Freedom Summer

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Volunteer Barbara Schwartzbaum, who was a teacher in the Freedom School at Morning Star Baptist Church, and local African American residents sing during Freedom Summer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1964.


From my adopted hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, I’ve been thinking about Freedom Summer.

Now that we are a month away from the fiftieth anniversary of that historic summer, many people are recalling and taking action, planning and preparing. Many of today’s Jewish activists are writing articles, developing programs and setting action goals in honor of the large Jewish volunteer contingent that traveled from Northern cities to spend their summer fighting for civil rights in Mississippi 50 years ago.

I’ve been working on plans for the commemoration here in Jackson and am enamored by the vast collection of archival material available. Those involved with the movement that summer risked their lives to promote civil rights and they volunteered knowing they were going to make history.

Luckily for people like me, they were great collectors. And even luckier, dedicated archivists have put countless hours into digitizing the collections. The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and perhaps more surprisingly the Wisconsin Historical Society, both have enormous and well organized (easily searchable!) collections available online. Here are a few of my favorite photos and documents from the USM collection, which all feature Hattiesburg volunteers.

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A group of volunteers and local African-American residents hold a meeting regarding voter registration in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, during Freedom Summer, 1964.

A handwritten list of Freedom Summer volunteers and staff in Hattiesburg written by Joe Ellin. The list gives the volunteers’ religion, race, approximate age, and their work site. There are tally marks for the statistics on the lower right corner. Symbols on the list include a Star of David to denote a Jewish volunteer, a cross for Catholics, and “N” for Negroes.