These Students Turned Their 1964 Summer Break Into a History-Making Movement

two hands clasping over mississippi saying freedom summer mississippi 1964
Via Flickr
Adé Hennis
February 21, 2024

We all remember how it felt when school ended and summer break started. And In 1964, hundreds of college students would have a summer experience like no other.

Students from across the country poured into Mississippi to volunteer for the Freedom Summer Campaign. They helped bring national attention to the suppression of Black voting and to overall racism in the state. But as these student volunteers taught residents how to register to vote, they would also learn an important lesson themselves.

In Freedom Schools, volunteers learned Black history. This helped them understand what they were actually fighting for, while giving them knowledge to bring home and pass on. But learning Black history did something else important.

It helped create momentum for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and hundreds of students returned home with memories they would never forget. “One returned having experienced so much, finding it so difficult to make it real to others, who had just had another ordinary summer,” one student volunteer said.

Freedom Summer showed the power of unity, as hundreds of young people joined together to fight voter suppression. Their work is real to us, and it teaches us an important lesson: there’s nothing we can’t accomplish when we unify.

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