The Mississippi Summer Project, a.k.a. Freedom Summer


(Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer testifying at the DNC in Atlantic City in August of 1964.)

Fresh Air recently re-ran a segment featuring “Freedom Summer,”  the documentary directed and produced by Stanley Nelson that chronicles SNCC and CORE’s combined efforts to bring civil rights to Black Americans living in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. One of the goal’s was to bring the nation’s attention to the extreme system of apartheid that Blacks lived under, and that was reinforced by every branch of power in Mississippi, from government, to the highly censored news media, to white “Citizens’ Councils,” to the KKK.

“Freedom Summer” moves me to tears every time I watch it, and I have watched it a bunch of times. So profound was its effect that I ended up having one of my characters, Daniella, be a part of “The Mississippi Summer Project” as it was known before it came to be called “Freedom Summer.”

Chapter five of We Are All Good People Here is comprised solely of letters from Daniella, which she writes while living in Mississippi with a Black family, spending the hot days going door-to-door, encouraging Black Mississippians to register to vote, despite the danger such action would put them in, and despite the known futility of their attempts (white county registrars saw to it that nearly all registrations by Black people were denied.) For Daniella, her summer in Mississippi marks the moment her life splits into two, Before and After, as she would spend the rest of her life deepened and changed by this experience

I HIGHLY recommend you watch the documentary, Freedom Summer , which PBS is currently streaming for free.

And here’s the 2014 Fresh Air interview with director Stanley Nelson and organizer Charles Cobb:

And, finally, here is chapter five from my book — my favorite chapter in the novel — which is simply a compilation of Daniella’s letters home from Mississippi.

Chapter 5 from WAAGPH