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research paper - Blair Connor Blair Professor McKelvey...

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Blair Connor Blair 2391 words Professor McKelvey College Writing 130 7 May 2007 Freedom Summer of 1964 and Mississippi Burning In the 1960’s, segregation, racism, and oppression were practiced everyday by whites and felt by blacks. In Mississippi and throughout the South, racist laws, enforced by the Ku Klux Klan and police, meant discrimination against blacks in every facet of life including public amenities, education, economic opportunities, and housing. Blacks did not demonstrate much resistance until the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950’s. Blacks were given the right to vote through the Civil Rights Act of 1964; voting would be the biggest platform for social change. Knowing this, Mississippi’s society allowed very few blacks to vote. In 1964 the Freedom Summer tried to create social change in Mississippi by attempting to register blacks to vote while bringing national attention to the South. The location of the Freedom Summer project was strategically picked. Mississippi, the symbol of Southern segregation, with the deepest racist tradition, would be the Freedom Summer’s most effective location for several reasons. Mississippi’s population in 1964 was over 40% black, but only 5% were registered to vote and even fewer actually did (Rachal) (Sunsheimer). Charles Blair, a Meridian, Mississippi resident in 1964, described Mississippi’s racism: “Oppression was a way of life in the south, it was considered normal and everyone accepted it, its just the way it was I guess. Nobody really meant any 1
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Blair harm, it’s just the way they were raised…Race relations weren’t bad, in fact there was racial harmony to an extent. Blacks accepted their role” (Blair). This is an existential problem and almost everyone is guilty of it. People need to critically examine their lives and make morally good decisions regardless of their society’s beliefs. As explained later, the Freedom Summer forced government and people, locally and nationally, to examine race relations and make moral changes. Mississippi’s attitude towards change was summed up by their governor, Ross R. Barnett, who said, “If we start off with the self-evident proposition that the whites and colored are different, we will not experience any difficulty in reaching the conclusion that they are not and never can be equal” (Rachal). Clearly, racism was a way of life in Mississippi. When a belief is entrenched in a society, like Mississippi’s, it becomes an existential problem, and changing that belief is genuinely difficult. Again, the people did not need changing, their ideology did. The people, by nature, were not bad; they were raised by, and believed in, morally wrong beliefs. Grass roots organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordination
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  • Spring '07
  • McKelvey
  • Freedom Summer, James Chaney, Edgar Ray Killen, Mississippi civil rights workers murders, Michael Schwerner

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