Wisconsin Historical Society

Classroom Material

Teacher Materials for the 1964 Freedom Summer Project

Sourcebook, PowerPoint Presentation, Video

Freedom Summer Project Teacher Materials | Wisconsin Historical Society

Help your students learn about the 1960s era struggle for civil rights, including the laws and practices that prevented most African-Americans in Mississippi from voting or holding public office with resources designed for teaching about Freedom Summer.  The 1964 Freedom Summer Project was the nonviolent effort by civil rights activists to integrate Mississippi's segregated political system. These events influenced the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Teacher Resources

  • Freedom Summer Sourcebook (PDF)
    A comprehesive guide of the most important primary sources for teachers and student researchers wanting to study Freedom Summer.
  • Freedom Summer Presentation (PowerPoint)
    Introduce your students to Freedom Summer with this overview of key events. Each slide contains images of original source documents and notes to help guide discussion.
Click to watch video.

PBS Video 'Mississippi, Is This America? 1962-1964'

(Video, 55 minutes, 6 seconds) Source: PBS Documentary Series "Eyes on the Prize" Part 5. Also available: a full transcript and other video formats

Watch a PBS Video on Freedom Summer

The documentary film from PBS, 'Mississippi, Is This America? 1962-1964,' is an ideal introduction to the topic of Freedom Summer. Its images, interviews, and narrative are simultaneously informative and moving.

Students will see:

  • A Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker discussing the attitudes of Mississippi's black population, whom SNCC hopes to reach with the voter registration campaign
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in two environments: in the church and at the end of the Freedom March
  • Activists meeting with potential voters
  • Mayor Charles Damon decrying integration
  • A woman describing how assailants fired into her house, wounding her grandchild

Standards

These materials may be used to address the specific standards listed below:

Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies
Standard B - History: Time, Continuity, and Change

B.12.1

Explain different points of view on the same historical event, using data gathered from various sources, such as letters, journals, diaries, newspapers, government documents, and speeches.

B.12.2

Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion.

B.12.6

Select and analyze various documents that have influenced the legal, political, and constitutional heritage of the United States.

B.12.18

Explain the history of…racial and ethnic discrimination and efforts to eliminate discrimination in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

A Note on Sensitive Content

Teachers should know that students are likely to be offended or upset by some of the documents. Racial epithets and vicious threats appear frequently, especially in the publications of opposition groups and the racist propaganda received from opponents of Freedom Summer. Many documents could be used to illustrate the nature of racist beliefs.

Graphic descriptions of violence and brutality are also quite common. Some students could be upset by firsthand reports of beatings and torture, or by the cumulative effect of reading successive accounts of firebombings, shootings and attacks on innocent people. Some documents contain descriptions of children like themselves being shot at, beaten, or caught in bombings.

Teachers should be alert to the effect of such texts on younger or sensitive students.

Use Guided Questions to Foster Critical Thinking Skills

Instead of suppressing or avoiding these disturbing passages, try to use them as uniquely powerful occasions for students to use their critical thinking skills. Your most useful response in these cases will probably be to validate the student's outrage or emotion, and then turn their intellect back to the text.

Ask questions that connect the historical documents to students' own lives:

  • Why do you think this person (or group) believed what they believed?
  • How did this person (or group) get those ideas?
  • Who benefited when racism was unquestioned?
  • What are some differences between prejudice and belief?
  • What are your own biases and preferences?
  • How do people change their unconscious assumptions about the world?

Learn More

View the Freedom Summer Digital Collection

Over 40,000 pages from the Society's Freedom Summer manuscripts -- enough to fill several file cabinets -- are available online.

  • See More About Freedom Summer
    See an overview of all Society resources available on Freedom Summer.
  • Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive
    Visit over 7,000 pages of digitized photographs, letters, diaries, and oral history transcripts, as well as finding aids for manuscript collections that are not online. Created by the University of Southern Mississippi.
  • The King Center
    See an archive of nearly one million pages that The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change has maintained for over a quarter century. It has recently begun putting selections of the most important materials online.
  • Civil Rights Movement Veterans
    View documents, letters, reports, stories, memoirs, and other materials contributed by Civil Rights workers on this very large and rich website.
  • SNCC Legacy Project
    See essays, calendars of upcoming events, and more from this website run by former staff and volunteers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
  • Freedom School Curriculum Website
    Learn more about how the Freedom Schools worked, what they taught, and how they affected American education.

Have Questions?