Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader

By Michael Edmonds (Editor)

Paperback: $18.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-678-8

256 pages, 19 b&w photos, 1 map, 6 x 9 E-book Edition Available


Orders for Trade, Library or Wholesale >>

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader documents the 1964 Freedom Summer project, when SNCC and CORE workers and volunteers went to Mississippi to challenge segregation. They attempted to register voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and establish a new political party. More than 60,000 black Mississippians risked everything to join them. In the 44 original documents in this anthology, you'll read their letters, eavesdrop on their meetings, shudder at their suffering, and admire their courage. You'll witness the final hours of three workers murdered on the project's first day, hear testimony by black residents who bravely stood up to police torture and Klan firebombs, and watch the liberal establishment betray them at the Democratic National Convention. These vivid primary sources, collected by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provide both firsthand accounts of this astounding grassroots struggle as well as a broader understanding of the civil rights movement

"A wonderful and long overdue book, Risking Everything vividly recalls the hope and fear, sweat and blood of Freedom Summer. From insider memos to position papers, from Klan screeds to heartfelt letters to 'Mom and Dad' here are the words of those who risked everything to make America a democracy, and those who risked decency to stop them."

- Bruce Watson, author of Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

View the Freedom Summer Archive Here

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department: whspress@wisconsinhistory.org.

Michael Edmonds is Deputy Director of the Library-Archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society and curator of its online collection of more than 25,000 pages documenting Freedom Summer. A 1976 graduate of Harvard University, he earned an MS degree at Simmons College in 1979 and taught part-time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The author of several articles and books, Edmonds has won national awards from the American Folklore Society and the American Association for State and Local History.


"Wisconsin may seem like an unlikely repository for one of the richest collections of historical materials from Freedom Summer.  As "political activists making their way to academia," UW history students felt they had the experience and knowledge to collect documents from many of the grassroots participants in the project. The voices of many of these participants, and those who challenged them, are represented in...Risking Everything...Edmonds said he envisions it (the book) having a broad audience: those who participated in the event, individuals who are curious about learning more about this aspect of the civil rights movement, and university faculty who can assign it as a selection of primary sources for their students." -Kim Ukura, The Capital Times

"Through eyewitness reports and information from more than 40 documents, editor Michael Edmonds brings readers an in-the-trenches look at Freedom Summer in a way you'll never get from any class. Included are letters home from Freedom workers, training manuals, essays, testimonies, transcripts, photographs and curriculums; as Edmonds himself said, 'No punches are pulled.'" -Terri Schlichenmeyer, Philadelphia Tribune

"The book is worthy for showing the complicated organization that went into the multifaceted project on a large scale and on the small scale, and the day-to-day impressions of the volunteers themselves. A letter home from Illinois student, Robert Feinglass captures his encounters with the poverty, fear, and oppression of the Mississippi residents: It is the most stimulating, satisfying work I have ever done. Nothing is ever enough; there is no such thing as a job finished: there is only progress. We are involved here in a process of uniting, joining, becoming a mutually interested community. The song says it well: we shall overcome." -Dina Weinstein, Jewish Book Council

"Highlights of the collection include Fannie Lou Hamer's deposition about the torture of herself and other black women by police officers and a Freedom Schools curriculum...Because these documents are all accessible online courtesy of the WHS, Edmond's collection would be most ideal for teaching undergraduates." -David Ponton III, The Journal of Southern History

Join Now.