The Mississippi Freedom Movement remains one of the heroic stories of twentieth century U.S. history. Students and faculty from Brown University and Tougaloo College conducted research in the Tougaloo College Archives to further explore this story. The documents presented here do not tell the whole story of the Civil Rights Movement, or even of Mississippi's role in what activists of the time called the Freedom Movement, but rather present one view available from the Tougaloo College Archives.
For background on the importance of Tougaloo College, please see:
Tougaloo College: Center of the Mississippi Freedom Movement, Ernest Limbo, Associate Professor, History, Tougaloo College.
This web site contains a searchable database of the documents chosen by the student researchers and the essays they wrote about groups of documents. You can explore the available documents by starting with the document cluster essays on the right or you can simply search the database. Either way you will learn about the obstacles faced by people who struggled to win equal rights for African Americans.
Freedom's Martyr: Medgar Evers: Medgar Evers, one of the first martyrs of the Freedom Movement, was born near Decatur, Mississippi, on July 25, 1925, to James and Jessie Evers. Medgar left high school in the 10th grade to join the army and fight in World War II. After serving as a sergeant in Europe, Evers enrolled in Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical School. [more...]
Voter Registration/Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party: The Tougaloo College Archives provide rich resources for studying the struggle to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi. A wealth of documents tell the story of how a determined group of people from Mississippi and from outside the state, both black and non-black, and of all ages transformed the fundamental political structure of Mississippi through grassroots organizing and through direct public challenges to a system founded on, and governed by, the belief and practice of white supremacy. [more...]
White Resistance: the Citizens Council and the Sovereignty Commission: White citizens in Mississippi reacted to the Freedom Movement with legislative initiatives, state funded organizations, and private groups all designed to maintain racial inequality and prevent blacks from voting. As the Freedom Movement activists looked to the federal government, beginning with the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954 that ordered the desegregation of public schools, whites in Mississippi used the language of state's rights versus the federal government to argue for the continuation of segregation. Many of the initiatives first tried in Mississippi spread to neighboring Southern states. [more...]
Reports from the Field: The Writings of Annie Rankin: Annie Rankin, born in Harrison County, Mississippi in 1933, became active in the Freedom Movement in 1964 when she attempted to integrate a lunch counter in Natchez, Mississippi. Ms. Rankin stayed active in Movement work through the 1960s. Her lively correspondence with her "freedom friends" in the North gives a moving glimpse into the grassroots work on which the Freedom Movement was built. [more...]
Black Power and the Republic of New Africa: Many of the activists who worked in the Freedom Movement in Mississippi became founders and participants in the Black Power movement, with Stockley Carmichael (of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee -- SNCC) giving the new movement its name during the Meredith Mississippi Freedom March in the summer of 1966. At the pinnacle of the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s, brothers Milton and Richard Henry, (acquaintances of Malcolm X who renamed themselves Gaidi Obadele and Imari Abubakari Obadele, respectively) assembled a group of 500 militant black nationalists in Detroit, Michigan to discuss the creation of a black nation within the United States. [more...]
Economic Freedom: Children's Development Group of Mississippi: Activism in Mississippi began in direct protest (the Freedom Rides and lunch counter sit-ins) and Voter Registration drives but, by 1965, organizers also turned their attention to economic and social welfare issues. At first, SNCC workers in particular were skeptical that President Lyndon Johnson's new War on Poverty programs would undermine grassroots Freedom Movement power through financial and federal control. But, in the summer of 1965, SNCC, along with northern white sympathizers, applied for federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) funds to run a series of Head Start programs for pre-school children under the auspices of the newly formed Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM).[more...]