Just over 50 years ago, African-Americans made up 45% of Mississippi's population, but fewer than 7% of black Mississippians were registered to vote.
In June of 1964, civil rights groups came together to kick off Freedom Summer, a 10-week campaign to dramatically increase the number of registered black voters in the state. More than 1,000 volunteers of all races and colors, from all over the nation, traveled to Mississippi to do this important work.
While there, youth volunteers and their black Mississippian supporters suffered unimaginable levels of vitriol and violence, but they did not stop fighting for what was right. In the end, Freedom Summer emerged as a defining moment in the civil rights movement, pushing our country one step closer to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The best way we can honor the work, bravery, and sacrifice of the Freedom Summer volunteers is to exercise the right they fought for so diligently.
Honor the mission of Freedom Summer by pledging to vote in this year's midterm election.
The extremely low levels of black voter registration in the South were fueled by generations of discriminatory elections practices. States were legally able to hold whites-only primaries, collect poll taxes, and administer literacy tests. When legal barriers weren't enough, lynchings and bombings—threats and fulfilled promises—kept even more African-Americans away from the polls.
Fifty years later, legislators are attempting to take us back toward 1964, weakening the VRA, making it ever harder for the poor and people of color to have their voices heard at the polls.
Don't allow these lawmakers to roll back history. They can only win and keep their seats in office when people like you and I stay home during midterm elections.
Raise your voice against those who seek to violate civil rights and human rights. Make a pledge to vote this November:
Lorraine C. Miller
Interim President and CEO