American Experience's Freedom Summer

As part of WGBH’s American Experience history series, Freedom Summer focuses on ten memorable weeks in the summer of 1964 when more than 700 student volunteers partnered with local communities and black citizens to challenge the foundations of white supremacy in Mississippi, the nation’s most segregated state. Together they canvassed for voter registration, created “Freedom Schools,” and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Photo courtesy of George Ballis/Take Stock, from American Experience's Freedom Summer

Despite the deadly violence that these young people encountered, the film portrays the hope, courage, and perseverance of thousands of black Mississippians and the idealism of the people who came to the state to help support their cause.

The film provides a powerful rebuttal to the conventional narratives of the civil rights struggle that often tell a top-down story of charismatic leaders and non-violent protest. It is challenging, inspiring, and riveting. “For illuminating an overlooked but essential element of the Civil Rights Movement – the patient, long-term efforts by outside activists and local citizens in Mississippi to organize communities and register black voters – Freedom Summer earns a Peabody Award.” – 2015 Peabody Awards Committee. Capstone funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations enabled WETA to complete the film for a national PBS broadcast which premiered in June, 2014.

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