Experiences of the 1964 Freedom Summer Volunteers

Expand/Collapse Experiences of the 1964 Freedom Summer Volunteers


In the summer of 1964, hundreds of predominantly white college students answered the call from civil rights leaders to volunteer for Freedom Summer. They participated in voter registration efforts, taught in freedom schools and worked in community centers in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. In this collection of video segments from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, participants reflect on their experiences during this historic period.

  • Experiences of the 1964 Freedom Summer Volunteers | Video Gallery

    In the summer of 1964, hundreds of predominantly white college students answered the call from civil rights leaders to volunteer for Freedom Summer. They participated in voter registration efforts, taught in freedom schools and worked in community centers in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. In this collection of video segments from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, participants reflect on their experiences during this historic period.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Experiencing Racism in Segregated Mississippi in the 1960s | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In the early 1960s, black citizens of Mississippi continued to experience severe discrimination in the segregated South. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, a Freedom School participant recalls what it was like to grow up in racially segregated Mississippi in the 1960s.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Social Injustice Motivates Midwestern Freedom Summer Volunteers | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In late 1963, organizers of the Freedom Summer began recruiting on college campuses for volunteers to help with voter registration efforts and community work in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. Students were motivated by the scenes playing out on the nightly news, in the press and by national authors who were bringing attention to civil rights issues. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Marcia Moore, Patti Miller, and Marvin Gatch recall their motivations for volunteering to travel to Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Summer Volunteers Prepare for the Challenge | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    Freedom Summer workers prepared for the challenge of working in the South prior to going to the region. In late June and early July 1964, approximately 1,000 students were oriented in Oxford, Ohio.  It was during this orientation that three civil rights workers disappeared in Meridian, Mississippi and the students from the north became aware of just how dangerous their work could be. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Patti Miller, Marcia Moore, Shel Stromquist, and  Marvin Gatch recall how they considered the risks and rewards of volunteering to travel to Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Summer Workers Experience the Poverty of the South | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In the summer of 1964, hundreds college students participated in voter registration efforts, taught in freedom schools and worked in community centers in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. At the time, Mississippi was the poorest state in the United States, particularly for the non-white population. Many volunteers came from white, middle-class families in the north, and witnessed extreme poverty for the first time. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Marvin Gatch and Patti Miller recall their reaction upon traveling to rural Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Summer Workers Welcomed by the African American Community | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In the summer of 1964, hundreds of predominantly white college students participated in voter registration efforts, taught in freedom schools and worked in community centers in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. Volunteers were welcomed by the black community. Many locals offered shelter in their homes to Freedom Summer workers at the risk of losing their jobs, being harassed, and threatened and worse. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Shel Stromquist, Patti Miller and Marvin Gatch describe the reception from locals when they arrived in rural Mississippi during the summer of 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Summer Volunteers Create “Freedom Schools” | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    Freedom Summer volunteers set up temporary, free schools for black children and other community members in Mississippi in the summer of 1964. The ages of attendees in the schools ranged from young children to older adults. The schools taught academic skills as well as voter literacy, confidence, political organization, and other topics the students might not encounter in traditional school settings. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Marvin Gatch, Marcia Moore, Patti Miller, Lenray Gandy, and Richard Beymer describe their experiences with Freedom Schools in rural Mississippi during the summer of 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Barriers for Black Voters in the South in the Early 1960s | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    During the summer of 1964, Freedom Summer volunteers helped black citizens of rural Mississippi prepare to go to the courthouse and register to vote. While blacks had the right to vote, some local governments and communities had put barriers in place that prevented them from registering to vote. Barriers included literacy tests, monetary charges, threats, harassment, and possible loss of employment. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Shel Stromquist, Richard Beymer and Marcia Moore describe what they observed while helping citizens of rural Mississippi register to vote during the summer of 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Summer Workers Attacked | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    On the night of July 15, 1964, a car driven by Freedom Summer volunteers was stopped by law enforcement officers on a Mississippi highway. The volunteers, one white and one black, were their way to distribute voter registration materials. They were beaten, threatened, and then detained in jail for two days. This video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer features first-hand accounts and narrated testimony of the victims describing the incident. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom House Bombed in Canton Mississippi | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In the early fall of 1964 a house being used by Freedom Summer volunteers was bombed in Canton, Mississippi.  A dynamite bomb was placed under the house and exploded. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Shel Stromquist describes this and other threats of violence he experienced or observed while helping citizens of rural Mississippi register to vote during the summer of 1964. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Volunteers Experience Threats During Freedom Summer of 1964 | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    Freedom Summer volunteers experienced threats of violence while helping citizens of rural Mississippi register to vote during the summer of 1964. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, Richard Beymer describes a particular encounter where he received threats from a policeman and local citizens.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Summer Volunteer Reacts to Murder of Civil Rights Workers in 1960s Mississippi | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In August of 1964, the bodies of three murdered civil rights workers were discovered in Mississippi. The victims were among college students participating in voter registration efforts throughout racially segregated Mississippi. This video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer includes a dramatized news report of the crime and a first-hand account from Patti Miller, who describes her reaction to hearing this news while in Mississippi in 1964.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Impact of the Freedom Summer of 1964 | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, participants reflect on the impact of the 1964 Freedom Summer. In that year, hundreds of predominantly white college students participated in voter registration efforts, taught in freedom schools and worked in community centers in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. Volunteers believed they raised awareness of the voter rights infractions in the South and demonstrated that it was possible to make positive changes on civil rights issues. By bringing attention to these issues and increasing pressure from the general public, the federal Voting Rights Act was signed into law in August of 1965.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Experiences of Volunteers During the Freedom Summer of 1964 | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer

    In the summer of 1964, hundreds of predominantly white college students participated in voter registration efforts, taught in freedom schools and worked in community centers in towns throughout racially segregated Mississippi. In this video segment from Iowans Return to Freedom Summer, participants reflect on their experiences during the 1964 Freedom Summer.

    Grades: 6-12

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