Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

About the Freedom Summer Project Manuscripts

1964 Freedom Summer Collections Description | Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Historical Society owns one of the nation's richest collections documenting the Civil Rights movement, which includes more than 100 manuscript collections about the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964.  That equates to approximately 750 folders of relevant documents totaling over 100,000 pages.

Over 40,000 pages from the Freedom Summer project manuscripts -- enough to fill several file cabinets -- are available online. In them you'll find official records of organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and  Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the personal papers of movement leaders and activists such as Amzie Moore, Mary King and Howard Zinn, letters and diaries of northern college students who went South to volunteer for the summer, newsletters produced in Freedom Schools, racist propaganda, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and brochures, magazine articles, telephone call logs, candid snapshots, internal memos, press releases and much more.

Freedom Summer was the nonviolent effort by civil rights activists to integrate Mississippi's segregated political system during 1964.  Volunteers were recruited and trained to help Mississippi's African-American residents register to vote, establish a new political party and learn about history and politics in newly-formed Freedom Schools.

The Society began collecting unpublished records of the Civil Rights movement in 1964. Within a few years, hundreds of boxes of manuscripts from many organizations and individuals were gathered. These collections have continued to grow for more than four decades.

We encourage students, teachers, writers, historians, and other researchers to use these resources in 2014 programs marking the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project. Feel free to copy them for classroom activities, term papers, displays or exhibits, dramatic presentations, and other nonprofit educational purposes.

How Are the Freedom Summer Collections Organized?

Online

Online items were scanned to be exact duplicates of the physical items. Digitized items are grouped into digitized manuscript folders according to how the physical items are stored in boxes in the Archives. Every physical folder is presented online intact, clearly identifying its original creator, collection name, and box location. Digitized folders can be browsed on your screen just as you would handle the original records in the Society's Archives Research Room.

Any folder shown online may be downloaded in PDF format for easy printing. 

The contents of each folder is summarized in short descriptions at the bottom of every page. Each folder has also been tagged to show subjects, communities, people and events that are documented in it. Use an Advanced Search to retrieve folders using these tags. Many folders contain papers that span several years and describe events before and after 1964.

The text on most pages is searchable. Perform an All Fields search to find specific words or phrases. Bear in mind that text searching is not 100 percent accurate, even though it often returns hundreds of results.

Physical

The original 1964 Freedom Summer Project manuscripts are available in the Archives at the Society's headquarters in Madison. Some are also available on microfilm in libraries around the nation.

Note: The original manuscript collections and microfilm usually contain many more folders than are available online. For example, the original records of the Congress of Racial Equality date from 1941 to 1968 and fill 150 boxes. Only the portions documenting Freedom Summer (less than 2 percent) are online.

Complete descriptions of the physical manuscripts can be found in the University of Wisconsin - Madison Library Catalog, which houses the Society's archives catalog. Type in search terms such as SNCC, CORE, Mississippi, or voting rights to learn more about the collections.

Purchasing Copies

Reproductions of any image in the collection are available for purchase. For more information about licensing commercial uses or purchasing reproductions, contact us. Photocopies of original materials in the physical collections are available for a fee. 

How to Cite

Bibliographic data appears below each online document. Copy and paste the bibliographic data into your preferred citation manager. If you're not using a citation manager, we suggest following this model:

Freedom Summer Collections Citation
Lewis, John. "Original text of speech to be delivered at Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963." Hank Werner Papers (M65-066) Box 1, Folder 5. Viewed on [today's date] at [URL] in the Freedom Summer Digital Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society.

Rights and Permissions

Users of Freedom Summer documents are responsible for obeying the U.S. Copyright Law. We share the documents strictly for nonprofit educational purposes and believe this conforms to fair use under the copyright law.

Copyright resides with the individuals who created the documents or the organizations for which they worked. The principal organizations have been defunct for many years and copyright to their unpublished records is uncertain.

We have attempted to contact individuals who created personal papers of significant length or importance. Nearly all have generously permitted us to include their work. If you believe that you possess copyright to material we've reproduced, please contact us at asklibrary@wisconsinhistory.org.

Teachers and students are free to reproduce any document for nonprofit classroom use. Individual researchers may download them for private consultation. Other reproduction, especially for commercial use, may violate the U.S. Copyright Law and requires prior permission.

Learn More

  • See Key Documents
    Important original source documents brought together for convenient browsing. Documents describe the background and implementation of Freedom Summer as well as the range of reactions, including opposition and violence.
  • See a Timeline
    Track significant events of Freedom Summer.  Each event is linked to an original manuscript that provides more detail.
  • See All Freedom Summer Images
    Photographs, posters, and broadsides gathered for easy browsing
  • See Teacher Resources
    Presentations and guides that will help teachers and students incorporate Freedom Summer into classroom activities.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.