Reliving Freedom Summer

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders look on. LBJ Library Photo by Yoichi Okamoto

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer—a grassroots organizing effort to register African-Americans to vote. Voter registration was the cornerstone of the summer project, for good reason. One example: although approximately 17,000 black residents of Mississippi attempted to register to vote in the summer of 1964, only 1,600 of the completed applications were accepted by local registrars. Highlighting the need for federal voting rights legislation, Freedom Summer’s efforts created political momentum for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This law, which abolished literacy tests and poll taxes designed to disenfranchise African American voters, and gave the federal government the authority to take over voter registration in counties with a pattern of persistent discrimination, comes up for renewal every 10 years. Today, threats to voting rights still exist nationwide with the recent adoption of voter ID laws and other forms of voter suppression.

In recognition of Freedom Summer’s 50th anniversary, Carnegie Corporation has launched the campaign @freedomnow, which will take place during the last two weeks of June and the first week of July. We will bring to life some of the dramatic days that changed America, using Twitter to highlight key milestones of 1964 interspersed  with related thoughts and activities of our grantees who are carrying on the fight. Scroll down to find a compilation of historical and contemporary words and actions.

Grantees in this story