Monday, June 23, 2014

50 Years Ago, Students Fought For Black Rights During 'Freedom Summer' : NPR

50 Years Ago, Students Fought For Black Rights During 'Freedom Summer' : NPR: This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a movement to open the polls to blacks in Mississippi and end white supremacy in the state.

Freedom Summer was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, which recruited 700 college students — mostly white students from the North — to travel to Mississippi and help African-Americans register to vote. The organizers, the students and the black people trying to register were all risking their lives, a measure of how pervasive racism was at the time.

A new documentary about the movement, called Freedom Summer, airs on PBS Tuesday.

"It was so dangerous, there was actually a list of some do's and don'ts that I found to be really fascinating," Stanley Nelson, the documentary's director, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "At night, don't stand with your back at the door of a house with the lights on, don't let people pass you on the highway — those kinds of things, which for me, as a filmmaker, showed visually the danger that was there."

Just as Freedom Summer was beginning, two white participants, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, and one African-American organizer, James Chaney, disappeared. It was later discovered they were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.