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Revisiting ‘Freedom Summer’

Was it really the summer Martin Luther King's dream began to die?

by
Tom Blumer

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July 6, 2014 - 12:12 am
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Fifty years ago, civil rights activists began Freedom Summer. Or, I should say, some people who held themselves out as “civil rights activists” did so.

PJ Media’s Ron Radosh recently referred to a PBS documentary on the event, which the public network described as the summer when “more than 700 student volunteers from around the country joined organizers and local African Americans in a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in what was one of the nation’s most viciously racist, segregated states.” More modestly stated, it was an effort to register black voters en masse.

Or was it? A recent revelation should cause objective historians to take a very hard second look at how and why Freedom Summer came to be, and at what really transpired in Mississippi that summer. From here, it appears that a campaign which has long been considered a civil rights movement milestone was really the beginning of the legitimate civil rights movement’s interment.

A June 19 Politico Magazine remembrance by historian Josh Zeitz shed new light on its leaders’ true intentions.

Zeitz apparently feels that he’s now in the historical clear to acknowledge and even celebrate motivations which, if widely known at the time, would have outraged millions of Americans of good will who had been moved by the nonviolence of Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers to accept the need for landmark legislation — the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — to enforce the right to vote, and to formally outlaw segregation in schools, workplaces, and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Though it wasn’t formally passed by the House and signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson until July 2, the legislation’s passage had been certain since June 19 when it cleared the Senate.

Zeitz, an open Democrat, lays bare what he admiringly acknowledges “was in many ways a very cynical strategy.”

Was it ever, as it involved deliberately placing northern white kids in mortal danger:

The architects of Freedom Summer were shrewd, pragmatic veterans of a brutal street fight … they wagered that if white students from prominent Northern families were arrested, beaten and illegally jailed—as they fully expected they would be—the federal government would finally recognize its responsibility to intervene in Mississippi.

The goal, explained (organizer Bob) Moses in advance of the summer project, was to create a political crisis. “Only when metal has been brought to white heat can it be shaped and molded,” he said. John Lewis … predicted that if white students were placed in harm’s way, “the federal government will have to take over the state … out of this conflict, this division and chaos, will come something positive.”

Though Moses rejected the charge that … (they) planned “to get some people killed so the federal government will move into Mississippi,” he also maintained that “no privileged group in history has ever given up anything without some kind of blood sacrifice.”

Zeitz’s attempt to draw a parallel between Freedom Summer and the previous year’s Birmingham Campaign led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. falls flat. Of course, Birmingham organizer King knew that serious violence in what was then known as “Bombingham” was virtually guaranteed. But he didn’t need to, and didn’t, recruit naive white Northern guinea pigs who could not possibly have been prepared to fully protect themselves in an incredibly hostile environment to ramp up the national pressure which became the catalyst for achieving passage of the Civil Rights Act. It should also not be forgotten that Mississippi’s culture of racial violence at the time was far worse than Alabama’s, or that King was not involved with Freedom Summer.

Organizers got their “blood sacrifice” even before the white students from up north arrived, when on the night of June 21-22, 1964, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner were murdered. Two of the three were from the “privileged group” Moses and Freedom Summer organizers sought to endanger.

I’m not convinced that Freedom Summer needed to happen at all.

Top Rated Comments   
Individuals like Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis were egomaniacal revolutionaries first (in the spirit of Ché). The Black Power movement was a useful means to their revolutionaries' ideal end & had more to do with violent revolution than fairness or justice or any other of those pretty words.

In real time, individuals like Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright, James Cone's Black Liberation Theology & Louis Farrakhan are current (wimpier, less forthright and bombastic) versions of exactly the same thing.

Farrakhan is directly immersed in the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most obvious link between the Left's ideological agenda and Islam.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
dr. king looked for a day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

we just had 2 presidential election cycles where the very people dr. king was championing voted as one for a man based entirely on the color of his skin. we now see clearly it wasn't based on the content of his character.

oh yeah, and his promises of free stuff.

dr. king was a man of ideals and hope for all people. his legacy is clear, those who vote for people based on race or gender are racist, sexists and possibly bigots.

other great men in our history have held that those who do it for monetary rewards are just plain un-American criminals.

12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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The revelation of Muslim involvement makes me wonder if a sort of "long game" was being played. Young idealistic American Jewry need to be distracted by a cause closer to home lest they emigrate and show solidarity to Israel. At that time Israel was far more collectivist in their domestic economic policies and had a little more attraction to left of center suburban Jewish youth. Nixon and his branch of the Republican party gave solid cover to the environmental movement because over time it would suck the wind out of anti-war movement.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, speaking as as crazed a right-winger as you wanna ask for, I have to say I see very little "juice" for the right in trying to deconstruct Freedom Summer. I saw the PBS special and thought it very good, and it did in fact illuminate something profound.

Namely, that I can perfectly understand why youth of that era would want to be involved, why it would resonate with them for decades, and why an ideological movement of millions could follow in it's wake.

Because it was the right thing to do. The culture and mindset of the deep south, was, put bluntly, quite appalling in this issue, and had to be broken. Even if leadership "cynically used" young people and endangered their lives, there are some things that are worth such decisions. Young people's lives were "used" in Iraq, in an effort that I still believe a worthy and moral attempt, now entirely squandered by fecklessness and/or design.

The problem from the starboard view is not Freedom Summer, it is the current movement that so desperately wants to relive it...... forever. Imagine people who at age 20 passionately opposed Nazism in 1932. Fought it ferociously in the field at age 28. Saw its surrender at age 33.

And then spent the next four decades... fighting Nazism. Because that is all they know, politically at least, and their politics also were such that all else not political was largely purged from their lives, at least all that is or should be separate from politics (church, community, family, business). Such a person needs Nazis, must have Nazis.... and will create Nazis until the end of time because of it. Thus, the Nazi problem will never be "solved", or even just reduced to irrelevance. Ever. Because too many have too much of a stake in fighting them. Their entire lives and world view is locked up in it -- until they die.

So I "get" Freedom Summer. It was a genuinely profoundly righteous event, and I get why it is literally held as a sacred crusade. Trying to deflate it in any serious manner will probably do more harm than good. Let us rather spend the energy informing younger people of the reality that they are being led around by people who are invested in a world view that has been dead for decades, and people whose reasons for keeping it alive are entirely about their own psychology, and the long dead demons who now live only in their heads.

And the price that the young are paying, and the destruction of their country now underway, just so that their elders can have live their crusading salad days -- forever -- is more enormous than they can even imagine. Because like virtually all else about the Boomers and their ideological offspring, it's all about how they get to feel about themselves. Nothing, literally nothing more than that.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
You completely missed the two main points:

1. The Politico Mag author is the one doing the deconstructing by revealing the "let's get northern white kids hurt" motivations of the organizers. I'm not questioning the kids' idealism or nobility.

2. By the time Freedom Summer began, the Civil Rights Act's passage was assured. Instead of courting violence they knew would occur, leaders should have had the maturity to allow LBJ to go after Mississippi under the law's authority, as it's crystal clear that he was chomping at the bit to do so.

But, as noted in Point 1, they were more interested in getting white northern kids hurt and perhaps killed.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Individuals like Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis were egomaniacal revolutionaries first (in the spirit of Ché). The Black Power movement was a useful means to their revolutionaries' ideal end & had more to do with violent revolution than fairness or justice or any other of those pretty words.

In real time, individuals like Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright, James Cone's Black Liberation Theology & Louis Farrakhan are current (wimpier, less forthright and bombastic) versions of exactly the same thing.

Farrakhan is directly immersed in the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most obvious link between the Left's ideological agenda and Islam.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Stokely Carmichael was a Communist, allied with Communists in Venezuala (I think). I heard him give a talk in which, instead of talking about civil rights, he talked about how white people imposed their standards of beauty on colored people (the official term), straight hair, thin lips, light skin. I replied that women get their hair curled, some have full lips - like Brigitte Bardot - and many light-skinned people get sun tans. He had no reply, except that I was a typical teacher. He was trying to stir up racial hatred.
According to Julius Lester, wherever Carmichael went there were cities burning, like Watts.
(Note the Communist involvement in the present looting and burning of Ferguson, Mo., plus the involvement of the (New?) Black Panthers and the ISIS.)
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
dr. king looked for a day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

we just had 2 presidential election cycles where the very people dr. king was championing voted as one for a man based entirely on the color of his skin. we now see clearly it wasn't based on the content of his character.

oh yeah, and his promises of free stuff.

dr. king was a man of ideals and hope for all people. his legacy is clear, those who vote for people based on race or gender are racist, sexists and possibly bigots.

other great men in our history have held that those who do it for monetary rewards are just plain un-American criminals.

12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
You might be correct, but it does not matter. King, JFK and RFK were murdered. We now have racial division and a New Age agenda for the last 50 years rather than equality under the law.

The world system agenda for region one of the WTO is in full swing now. Look at the southern border as but one example.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
King's murder matters in the context. JFK and RFK not so much.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
MLK's dream would not have died had it not been high jacked. With the deaths of the three I wrote, the New Age agenda of the state being a god and the division of race is in full swing.

The American dream of pulling yourself up by the boot laces and a fair shot of doing so, which was MLK's request, not so much after 50 years.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
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