From the Freedom Summer to Voting Rights

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Key themes

  • LJB presidency and support for Civil Rights
  • Mississippi Freedom Summer in support of voting Rights
  • Freedom Summer Murders of Chaney, Shwerner and Goodman
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Selma to Montgomery March for Votes
  • Voting RIghts Act of 1965


  • 1964
    • From June to August, the SNCC organizes a voter registration drive in Mississippi, which is now called the Freedom Summer. It is often considered a failure in that only 1,600 more African Americans were successfully registered to vote in Mississippi (although over 17,000 tried to do so). Most failed to register even though they could pas the literacy tests; they were intimidated by the threat of violence and some were physically attacked or had their property attacked; others had the threat of dismissal from work. There were some successes, however, with the creation of 30 Freedom schools and the setting up of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). More importantly, it brought the issue of voter registration to national attention.
    • 21st June – Three Freedom Summer workers disappear: Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, white activists from New York, and James Chaney, a black activist from Meridian, Mississippi.
    • 4th August – The bodies of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman are found in a dam. All three people had been shot, while Chaney had also been beaten badly.
    • 2nd July – Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act bans discrimination in public places and in employment.
    • 10th December – Martin Luther King Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1965
    • January – Local Civil Rights groups invited Martin Luther King and the SCLC to campaign in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama, over voting rights.
    • 21st February – Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
    • 9th March – King leads a march from Selma to Montgomery to highlight voter rights but the march is stopped by police at the Pettus bridge, just outside Selma. State troops and police then attacked the protesters with tear gas, horses, clubs and electric cattle sticks. It became known as ‘bloody sunday’.
    • 17th March – President Johnson submitted a voting rights bill to Congress; then took control of Alabama National Guard.
    • 21st March – 3000 marchers leave Selma for Montgomery and complete the march without opposition
    • 25th March – nearly 25,000 people join the Selma marchers on March 25th at the city limits of Montgomery
    • 6th August – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, which renders all discriminatory voting requirements, such as requiring literacy tests before registering to vote, illegal.

The Mississippi Freedom Summer

Memory of the March from Selma to Montgomery, from John Lewis


  1. Explain the significance of the Civil Rigths Legislation of the 1960s
  2. To what etent was the the Freedom Summer a failure?
  3. C style question: ‘The main achievement of the civil rights movement was that it increased awareness of the unfair ways that African Americans were treated.’ How far do you agree? Explain your answer.You may use the following in your answer:
    • Awareness of the treatment of African Americans
    • the Civil Rights Act (1964).
    You must also use information of your own (16 marks)

Eyes on the Prize, Part 5: Mississippi – is this America?

Eyes on the Prize, Part 6: Bridge to Freedom

Eyes on the Prize, Part 7: 1964-66 The time has come

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