Students watch a video about Iowans who volunteered to participate in the 1964 Freedom Summer Project—a historic civil rights event, and learn about their motivations for traveling to then racially-segregated Mississippi to help African-Americans register to vote. They then write a letter home to Iowa from the point of view of a Freedom Summer volunteer in Mississippi.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Iowa Unit 9 | Activities for Grades 8–12." This unit is comprised of activities for 8th grade and high school students. In this unit, students will explore the environmental, historical, and political factors that characterize the state of Iowa.
CG.SS-US.9-12.15: Assess the impact of individuals and reform movements on changes to civil rights and liberties. (21st century skills)
H.SS-US.9-12.27: Evaluate Iowans or groups of Iowans who have influenced U.S. History.
An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
Class set of Freedom Summer Volunteers handout
Computer stations, tablets, or other research materials
- Explain to students that, in 1964, there was still a lot of segregation and resistance (often violent) to African Americans voting in southern states, such as Mississippi. About 1000 white college students from the north and Midwest joined civil rights leaders to spend the summer in towns across Mississippi helping African Americans overcome racial barriers and register to vote.
- Tell students they will be watching a video about how the injustice of racism brought white Iowans to Mississippi to help in the fight for freedom. Warn students that there are some violent images in the video.
- Play the video, Social Injustice Motivates Midwestern Freedom Summer Volunteers | Iowans Return to Freedom Summer. [2:46]
- Ask students:
- What motivated the Iowans volunteering in Mississippi?
- What would motivate you to volunteer for a project that might be risky but that you felt was righteous?
- Distribute the Freedom Summer Volunteers handout to students. After doing additional research, and perhaps watching more videos in the Iowans Return to Freedom Summer Collection, have students write a letter home to Iowa from the perspective of a Mississippi Freedom Summer Volunteer.
Answer Key for Class Discussion:
- Reading about injustices, reading novels by black authors; watching/reading the news reports about refusing access for African Americans to vote; seeing violent reactions toward minorities on nightly news; prompting by brochures calling for help
- Answers will vary