Freedom Summer

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Last week, saw “Freedom Summer,” a documentary on PBS’s “American Experience.” Perhaps PBS will repeat it, but it’s available now on DVD or on iTunes. An eye-opening two-hour piece on what happened in Mississippi in 1964 when SNCC organized and sent mostly white college students down there to try to help black people register to vote. You won’t believe the ugliness of the whites, who were determined to keep the “nigras” in their places. And you won’t believe the conversation between J. Edgar Hoover and LBJ on what to do, especially after the three students disappeared (later found murdered and buried). Not to mention how LBJ maneuvered to keep the black delegation to the convention from being seated. There are also heart-warming scenes of the children and adults who came to the “freedom schools,” and of the volunteers and organizers finding strength through song.

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The shocking thing is to realize how conditions in the American south were so like those of the British Raj in India, and how the British colonials’ attitudes toward Indians reappear in the southern whites. (Just re-read “A Passage to India”; still wonderful).

Lois Horgan

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