Freedom Summer was an important event in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s.
In 1964, Civil Rights activists sought to increase the number of African Americans registered to vote in Mississippi. Led by members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, these activists not only wanted to increase voter registration but also wanted to form a "Freedom Democratic Party" to increase African American participation in the national Democratic Party. They also intended to open schools for African Americans and establish health and legal centers for black Mississippians.
In June 1964, the Freedom Summer organizers held an orientation session. The meeting occurred in Oxford, Ohio, at the Western College for Women. Eight hundred people attended the orientation. Most of the participants were white college students. They came primarily from affluent backgrounds since each person had to pay his or her own expenses during the summer. The participants received training in passive (nonviolent) resistance.
On June 20, two hundred people departed from Oxford for Mississippi. The next day, three of the Freedom Summer's participants, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, were reported as missing. Approximately six weeks later, authorities discovered their bodies in an earthen dam in Mississippi. Although the Freedom Summer participants refused to use violence, some Southerners assaulted and sometimes killed members of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Freedom Summer of 1964 succeeded in educating many people about the difficulties African Americans faced in the South. The event's participants opened schools and health and legal centers for Mississippi's black population. Voter registration also increased. More than seventeen thousand black people tried to register to vote in Mississippi alone. Government officials only allowed 1,600 of the applicants to register.
The Freedom Summer participants and other members of the Civil Rights Movement succeeded in persuading the federal government to improve voting access for African Americans. President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965. African American voter registration increased.