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Freedom Summer


Film Synopsis

“I’m going down to Mississippi
I’m going down a Southern road
And if you never see me again
Remember that I had to go”

- Lyrics from Going Down to Mississippi

In 1964, less than 7% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote. In many rural counties, African Americans made up the majority of the population and the segregationist white establishment was prepared to use any means necessary to keep them away from the polls and out of elected office. For years, local civil rights workers had tried to increase voter registration amongst African Americans. Those who wished to vote had to face the local registrar, an all-powerful white functionary who would often publish their names in the paper and pass the word on to their employers and bankers. And if loss of jobs and the threat of violence wasn’t enough to dissuade them, the complex and arcane testing policies were certain to keep them off the rolls.

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Historical Impact

In 1964, a plan was hatched by Bob Moses, a local secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For 10 weeks, white students from the North would join activists on the ground for a massive effort that would do what had been impossible so far: force the media and the country to take notice of the shocking violence and massive injustice taking place in Mississippi. It was a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in what was one of the nation’s most viciously racist, segregated states.

Film Length (2014, 120 minutes)

Film Credits

  • A Film by Stanley Nelson.
  • A Firelight Media production for American Experience.
  • Written, Produced and Directed by Stanley Nelson, Cyndee Readdean, Aljernon Tunsil.
  • Original Concept Developed by Paul Taylor.
  • Archival Producer Christine Fall.
  • Director of Photography Antonio Rossi.
  • Composer Tom Phillips.
  • American Experience is a production of WGBH Boston.
  • Senior Producer Sharon Grimberg.
  • Executive Producer Mark Samels.

For Teachers

Explore Created Equal in the Classroom:

- Equality Under the Law
- The Power of the Individual
- The Strategy of Nonviolence

Community Programs

The NEH Created Equal project uses the power of documentary films to encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.

Changing America Exhibit

Find a "Changing America" exhibit in your community.