Freedom Summer Goals and Purposes Document Study

Context and Questions

The following documents come from a variety of sources and were written for many different reasons. What can we infer from these documents about the goals and purposes of Freedom Summer? (As you read each document, remember to consider who wrote it, when, and for what audience and purpose.)

Rita Schwerner CORE application letter

Since I have become active in CORE here in New York, I have become increasingly aware of the problems which exist in the Southern states. I have a strong desire to contribute in some small way, by the utilization of those skills which I possess, to the redress of the many grievances occurring daily. I wish to become an active participant rather than a passive onlooker. Realizing the Northern newspaper and radio accounts are often distorted…, I wish to acquire firsthand knowledge of existing conditions in the South…

As a teacher I have been working in South Jamaica, Queens where I not only have had experience in dealing with teenagers, but have become increasingly concerned with the conditions under which these children must live…

As my husband and I are in close agreement as to our philosophy and involvement in the civil rights struggle, I wish to work near him, under the direction of CORE, in whatever capacity I may be most useful. My hope is to someday pass on to the children we may have a world containing more respect for the dignity and worth of all men than that world which was willed to us.

Quoted in Huie William Bradford, Three Lives for Mississippi. (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2000 [orig. 1965]), 37-38.

Freedom Summer excerpt, Why people went

Discussion at Ohio orientation about why they were going: “‘Are you going,’ Vincent Harding started, ‘as “In” members of the society to pull the “Outs” in with you? Or are we all “Outs”? Are you going to bring the Negroes of Mississippi into the doubtful pleasures of middleclass existence, or to seek to build a new kind of existence in which words like ‘middle-class’ may no longer be relevant? Are we trying to make liberal readjustments or basic change?’ The floor took over.

White boy: ‘For me there is only one race, the human race. It’s one nation. Mississippi is our back yard as much as Harlem. I’ve had it good for along time. But I’ve seen too many people hungry for too long.’

Negro boy: ‘We have to try to change the South so that the people of the North will want to do better. The South is a battle-field: The North is in a stalemate. For us, it’s all intolerable. But we have to work where the situation is flexible enough for change. Open hate is preferable to hypocrisy – it can be moved.'

White girl: ‘There’s not enough justice and not enough liberty. There’s not enough truth and there’s not enough beauty. Who will work to make these things? It’s everyone’s job.’

Southern white boy: ‘I’m involved in this for my own freedom. We have to build a new South, a South ruled by law, democracy, and humanity. I couldn’t not have come.’

White boy: ‘I’m going because the worst thing after burning churches and murdering children is keeping silent.’”

Belfrage, Sally. Freedom Summer. New York: The Viking Press, 1965, p. 7.

Rita Schwerner Statement to Newspapers

My husband, Michael Schwerner, did not die in vain. If he and Andrew Goodman had been Negroes, the world would have taken little notice of their deaths. After all, the slaying of a Negro in Mississippi is not news. It is only because my husband and Andrew Goodman were white that the national alarm has been sounded.

Rita Schwerner, Statement to Newspapers on the Discovery of Her Husband’s Body on 4th August, 1964.

Why are you here?

Staying in character as a prospective volunteer who has come to this information session to decide whether or not to participate in Freedom Summer, think about your answers to the following questions and share them with your partner:

  • Why am I here?
  • What is motivating me to go or not go?
  • Based on my skills and talents, which of the three main projects (Freedom Schools, voting registration, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party) could I contribute to the most?


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Freedom Summer Goals and Purposes Document Study." (Viewed on November 29, 2023) <>.


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