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In 1964 the first group of summer volunteers began training at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. Majority of the volunteers were white northern college students from middle and upper class backgrounds. The training sessions were to prepare volunteers to register black voters, teach literacy and civics at Freedom Schools, and promote the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s challenge to the all-white Democratic delegation at the summer’s Democratic National Convention.
One week after the first group of volunteers arrived in Oxford, three civil rights workers were reported missing in Mississippi. James Chaney, a black man from Mississippi, and two white northerners, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, disappeared while visiting Philadelphia, Mississippi, to investigate the burning of a church by the Klu Klux Klan.
The summer project established 41 Freedom Schools attended by more than 3,000 young black students throughout the state. Students were taught math, reading, and other traditional courses, as well as black history, the philosophy of the civil rights movement, and leadership skills that provided them with tools to fight the struggle after the summer volunteers departed.
Martin Luther King Jr. visited Greenwood, Mississippi, to show the support of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the summer project and to encourage black Mississippians to vote despite acts of violence and intimidation. Less than three weeks after King’s visit, the murdered bodies of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were found. King characterized their brutal deaths as “an attack on the human brotherhood taught by all the great religions of mankind”
Freedom Summer Project leaders organize the 1964 'Freedom Vote.' The election was held from October 31 through November 2, 1964, where more than 68,000 people cast their votes. It proved to political leaders that African-Americanswould be an important constituency to address after they would be allowed to participate in voting. The congressional challenge launched by the MFDP on January 5, 1965 was created to access equal rights to seating in the House of Representatives.. After nine months of legal maneuvering, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the MFDP challenge and allowed the all-white Mississippi delegation to occupuy the state's seats.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed Congress in part because lawmakers' constituents had been educated about the plight of African-Americans and the need for change during Freedom Summer. Mississippi's black residents gained organizing skills and political experience, and because of it when the federal government enabled African-Americans to vote and run for office, they were prepared to take part in the political process.
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