Program at library Monday explores Freedom Summer

A program observing the 50-year anniversary of the Mississippi Summer Project, a turning point in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, will be held Monday at noon at the Fort Dodge Public Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Freedom Summer, as the project later became known, was an effort in 1964 to register African-Americans in the Deep South to vote, and to seat a racially-mixed Mississippi delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. In the summer of 1963, hundreds of volunteers from across the country – including Iowa – arrived in Mississippi to participate. Violence, including four murders and daily beatings, haunted residents and workers who attempted to deliver voter registration materials, hold informational meetings, and mobilize support.

Mississippi was chosen for the project because only seven percent of the state’s African-American residents were registered to vote in the 1962 election – the nation’s lowest percentage – due to racially discriminatory laws and practices throughout the state. Freedom Summer helped to promote passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the following year.

The Monday program will feature a portion of the forthcoming PBS documentary, “Freedom Summer,” and a discussion of efforts underway to preserve the memory of those Iowans who challenged discrimination in the Deep South and elsewhere. Those efforts include production of a documentary proposed to air on Iowa Public Television this fall recounting the stories of several Iowans who participated in the 1964 project.

David McCartney, University of Iowa Archivist and a co-founder of the Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network, will host the event.

The Fort Dodge Public Library is located at 424 Central Ave. For more information, call 573-8167, ext. 224, or visit