Freedom Summer 1964

25 Jun

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. Freedom Summer was a massive undertaking that sought to register as many African American voters in the state of Mississippi as possible. The groups behind Freedom Summer sought as many individuals, mainly students, to participate in the activities. These activities included voter registration, Freedom Schools, and community centers in Mississippi to encourage voter registration and education. It was without a doubt a dangerous job to take with 3 volunteers killed at the very start of Freedom Summer. Knowing that the 50th Anniversary was approaching I decided to see if I could find participants from West Tennessee. I found the following names listed on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.


1. Gloria Bishop – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Canton/Madison County, Mississippi Rural

2. Rev. Edward L Brown – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Clergy sponsored by the National Council of Churches

3. Ed Hamlett – Jackson, TN – Volunteer – White Community Project

4. James Nance – Trenton, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Hattiesburg, Mississippi

5. Jewelene Owens – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Jackson, Mississippi – Voter Registration

6. Gwendolyn Robinson – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Assigned to Laurel, Mississippi – Freedom Center

6. Rev. William SMith – Memphis, TN – Volunteer – Clergy sponsored by the National Council of Churches


I do not believe that the list provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society is conclusive. There certainly could have been more participants from West Tennessee as there were 1000+ volunteers. What is known is that these participating individuals were very brave to fight to secure the fundamental right to vote for African Americans in Mississippi. At the conclusion of the summer 1600 African Americans were successfully registered. While that may not seem like a large number it truly was given the type of place Mississippi was at the time. The next year in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act which sought to protect individuals from discrimination at the voting polls.


– Tiffany

Source – Wisconsin Historical Society


4 Responses to “Freedom Summer 1964”

  1. Adam Henig July 1, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    Good work Tiffany. Very interesting.

    • Tiffany July 2, 2014 at 5:56 am #

      Thanks for commenting. Hopefully I can find some names from individuals who lived in the Lauderdale County area.

  2. jdoggtn July 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Actually, there were volunteers with the West Tennessee Voters Project who worked during Freedom Summer 1964 in Tipton, Fayette and Haywood Counties in Tennessee. A bit of this work has been discussed in Robert Hamburger’s book “Our Portion of Hell” about Fayette County, Tennessee, and a very brief book called “Step By Step” appeared in 1965, published by the Cornell Committee for Free Elections in Fayette County, Tennessee. Unfortunately, there is much less in print about the movement in Haywood County, and nothing at all about it in Tipton, where the largest effort was a school boycott against the split sessions during the summer of 1965. Some have suggested that this boycott led to the closure of Gailor High School in Mason.

    • Tiffany July 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      Thanks for commenting. Since this was posted I have discovered a few leads related to individuals from West Tennessee who participated in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer event referenced in the posting. I hope to have enough info to update the posting eventually. I have only covered Fayette County’s Tent City that resulted from their voting rights activities and Haywood County’s voting rights issues very briefly here. It’s good to know that there was some Civil Rights activity in Tipton County. Looks like I have a new lead to follow 🙂

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