Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy
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Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  440 ratings  ·  78 reviews
A riveting account of one of the most remarkable episodes in American history.
In his critically acclaimed history "Freedom Summer," award- winning author Bruce Watson presents powerful testimony about a crucial episode in the American civil rights movement. During the sweltering summer of 1964, more than seven hundred American college students descended upon segregated,...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published May 26th 2010)
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Jeanette
Summer of 1964, I was sitting in my diapers, sniffing the Topanga Canyon breezes and watching the snakes and tarantulas go by, so I think I can be forgiven for not knowing what was going on in Mississippi. If you've seen the 1988 film Mississippi Burning, you know about the three young men, two white and one black, who disappeared on the first night of Freedom Summer. This book tells the rest of the story.

Hundreds of brave and idealistic college-age kids left their safe white enclaves all over...more
Susan
I remember the summer of 1964 very well--I watched most of it on the TV evening news where I gathered with fellow Peace Corps trainees in the evenings at Indiana University (and for two weeks at Indiana State in Terra Haute). We had classes all day: history of Africa and Sierra Leone, public health lectures, phys ed, Krio language, etc. etc. It was really like going to summer school except that we all lived together in Quonset huts left over from WWII and stuck together because we never had a fr...more
Susan
Freedom Summer tells the story of Mississippi during the summer of 1964 when hundreds of college students from across the US traveled to Mississippi to open Freedom Schools, run voter registration drives and education, and support African Americans stepping into County Courthouses to register to vote. It was a summer of terror for all, for African Americans standing watch with rifles and shotguns to the young students whom they were protecting. White Mississippians were terrified of the changes...more
Sara
Just an incredible social history of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and Mississippi, in particular the summer of 1964, when hundreds of college students, black and white, went into the very dangerous small towns of that state to register voters. They also opened "Freedom" schools that offered the prisoners (yep, I said it) of that racist society a different way to view themselves, the country and the world.

The (in)famous murder of three of those civil-rights workers, Michael S...more
McMaeve
Usually a history book is NOT what I would pick up, but after trying civil disobedience this summer, and finding parallels with the civil rights era, I wanted to learn more. I found this book riveting, as well as thoroughly well-researched and peppered with quotes and primary sources. I was struck by the sacrifices that SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) volunteers made - Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney with their lives. I read this with a curiosity about what drives movements. What...more
Chris Young
I found this book fascinating. I was 3 years old when all of this happened. I have read many books and seen many movies about this time. The brutality wasn't what I would call shocking as there is so much documentation of it. Two things that did surprise me was the volunteers, who they became. Barney Frank comes to mind. I had no idea he was that deeply involved, I always assumed he was another loud mouthed politician. He actually did something. Even more shocking was the discovery that until th...more
Morgan Oats
Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, or Freedom Summer, is a nonfiction history written in 2010 by the journalist Bruce Watson. The events that take place within Freedom Summer revolve around the civil rights movement fostered by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (“pronounced 'Snick'”), that occurred in the summer of 1964 across Mississippi. Facts, quotes, and events recorded by Watson are derived from other histo...more
Robert
This is a soul-stirring book - narrative history at its best. Watson gives a detailed, comprehensive account of the 1964 Freedom project in Mississippi - the year when suffering Civil Rights activists, desperate to attract attention to their struggle, invited idealistic northern college students to spend their summer working in this Deep South state, violent, Klan-ridden - to live there with the poorest of the poor, registering voters, teaching in Freedom schools, and, by risking their lives, by...more
Larry
Despite having already read a number of books about the degradations that the South, and Mississippi in particular, have inflicted upon the blacks after the Civil War, I was terribly moved by this book. In essence, this book is about the summer of 1964 in which great efforts were made to allow the blacks of Mississippi to have the same rights of citizenship that white people enjoyed. Rights that one would have thought they had obtained after being freed as slaves a century earlier. I could talk...more
Bailey
Ask just about anyone on the street about the Civil Rights Movement, and you'll get the same answer from probably everyone, the same names will be dropped. JFK, King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X... It's a short list, and an incredibly incomplete one. Bruce Watson introduces the reader to hundreds of heroes we've never met; volunteers working in Mississippi in the summer of 1964, alongside Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, Stokely Carmichael and other names who really should be in our consciousness. Names l...more
Sue
A tremendous book about our history that many don't know anything about. It should be apart of every American history course. These young people and Mississippi blacks were so courageous during a time when no one, and I mean no one was paying attention to their safety or freedom. Jim Crow was alive and well. People were starving, mistreated, beaten, hanged, and plenty of other disgusting things for minor infractions of the law or trumpeted up reasons. Prejudiced ruled. This summer project brough...more
Alisha Marie
As someone who was born way after 1964, the little that I know about the Civil Rights Movement came from the fictional portrayals I've seen in the movies. So, after watching the film The Butler, I decided that I needed to branch out into non-fiction about the Civil Rights Movement. Freedom Summer did not disappoint.

Freedom Summer really gets into the nitty gritty of what really happened the summer of 1964 in Mississippi. It gives you every horrifying and gory detail. Reading this book was sort o...more
Nancy
The author made me feel the fear, hope, joy, despair, and all the other emotions blacks and whites must have felt that summer. It brought me to tears numerous times. Barney Frank was one of the volunteers (though not much about him in the book), which I had not known. Made me want to know more about that summer, and am on waiting list for book containing the letters home from the volunteers. We've all come a long way but there's still a long way to go.....
Elena
This was a really interesting book! I read it for a history class, but I still really enjoyed it! Learning about Freedom Summer puts movements such as Occupy Wall Street into a larger context. This book is inspiring for any young people who want to work to create social change!
bri
Wow! I feel downright un-american for being so ignorant about the civil rights movement.
Sonia
Incredible- one of the best books I've read in a long time.
Lori White
Jun 26, 2010 Lori White marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
CANNOT WAIT TO READ THIS OMG
Jan
This excellent account of the Freedom Summer of 1964, where young college students were trained and sent to Mississippi to help register black voters, is powerful! So many thoughts went through my mind as I read this book-
This happened in my lifetime in AMERICA! Mississippi was so corrupt and full of hate for black people that murder was condoned; almost everyone in power was in on it. To be black in much of the the south was to live a life of extreme under privilege- one step above slavery. Bec...more
Laura
This 300-page book is a quick narrative of the 1964 summer when masses of white and black college students took it upon themselves to go to Mississippi, live in the homes of poverty-stricken blacks, and work to get them registered to vote. Post-Civil War barriers to blacks' voting had included poll taxes, literacy tests, and questions about the Constitution. When it became clear that a single summer would not be enough time to achieve their goals, the summer volunteers worked to create an altern...more
David
It is difficult to find words to adequately praise this finely written and thoroughly researched book. The summer of 1964 changed Mississippi and America forever. A small army of college students went to the state that was the bastion of white racism. Mississippi was a hard nut to crack, but these brave young people cracked it. This book reads like a virtual who's who in the Civil Rights Movement: Robert Moses, Barney Frank, John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokeley Carmich...more
Caroline
In the summer of 1964 hundreds of college students gave up their holiday to volunteer for the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) in Mississippi, working to further race equality in what was at the time the poorest and most virulently racist state in the nation. They set up schools, teaching children and adults, worked to register African-Americans for the vote, garnered signatures for an alternative delegation to the Democratic National Convention, all in the face of astonishingly...more
Bobbi
Most of what I have read about the Summer of 1964 has focused on the murder of the three civil rights workers. What I have never really read was what this book delivers-a comprehensive overview of Mississippi, summer of 1964, and the volunteers that flooded the state.

So many new to me facts were present. For instance, the volunteers were trained in Ohio before being sent to Mississippi. Which makes a ton of sense as those entering Mississippi was entering a hostile land. The fact that these volu...more
Chris Aylott
I enjoyed Bruce Watson's journalism back in Northampton, and thought this would be an interesting look at an event I don't know enough about. Wow. Watson digs into history the way I like to see it, taking his time to trace the roots of the conflict, then following relatively ordinary people through big events and their consequences. He brings the Mississippi of 1964 back to life, and it is a terrifying place -- even more so when you see the similarities between the reactionary hatred of then and...more
Linda
This book is totally engrossing. The topic, a segment of the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the early 60s, is by itself fascinating. However, the writing is brilliant. It draws you in, exposes you to the range of emotions of the day but doesn't overdo it. It isn't sanctimonious and doesn't hide the weaknesses of the movement. This book should be required reading for every American high school senior.

Those with an interest in Peace Corps will also enjoy this book. For those who have ser...more
Shannon
Was supposed to read this for college summer reading, and I wasn't all THAT excited about reading it...
But I tried it, and I was pleasantly surprised! It provided great historical information while also being a great read. Provided new interesting insight into the civil rights movement and something I didn't know a lot about- Freedom summer!
So I'd recommend picking it up if you enjoy great historical books (: or if you like civil rights related stuff!
Kate
This book was an eye-opener. I was vaguely aware that the South, during the Jim Crow era, was a festering hellhole; but I was shocked by the degree of brutality described in this book. But while I was nauseated by the descriptions of racial hatred and violence, I was left in awe of the individuals who, at great peril to their lives, traveled to Mississippi to advance the cause of civil rights for Black Americans. This is the kind of book that makes you want to be a better person.
Marcia
This is a good book on a very interesting topic. Watson chronicles the summer of 1964, "Freedom Summer," when hundreds of (mostly white) college students journeyed to Mississippi to join up with local black civil rights workers, in an effort to change Mississippi's Jim Crow voting laws. They were met with distrust, hatred, violence of all stripes, and even murder, from the local whites. This is an important, engrossing story. I'm not always sure about Watson's tone, as he has a flare for the mel...more
Kaity
This book was amazing. I read it for a class on Civil Rights and Liberties and it tore me apart. That is how you know it is well written. I had never before heard about the historic Freedom Summer in Mississippi. I knew about Emmitt Till and Medgar Evers and MLK, about churchs and violence, sorrow and the eventual victory, but I didn't know about this one amazing summer that altered lives and set the state of Mississippi on the path to saving itself even while it saved the rest of the Union. I t...more
Socraticgadfly

This book brought the whole panoply of Mississippi 1964 alive ... class divisions within whites in Mississippi helping to fuel the racism; the beginnings of class difference within blacks, too; the languid torpor before mass availability of AC; the casualness of cruel violence, and much, much more.

It's a wonder that more and more of the volunteers didn't come down with something like full-blown PTSD; I have no doubt of Watson's findings that more of them stayed single than the national average o...more
Travis Marshall
A fascinating subject to read about in depth -- and this book DOES go in depth. There is fertile ground to mine here in the contrast between Mississippi and the rest of the nation, as well as between the black, battle-tested SNCC members and the naive, idealistic, white volunteers.

My only qualms are that Watson sometimes gets overly cute in how he sets the stage for various moments in the book. His research and the scope of this book is impressive, nonetheless.
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Bruce Watson is the author of four well-reviewed books on American history, each enlivening forgotten or neglected periods in the nation’s past.

In June 2010, Freedom Summer: The Savage Season that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy was published by Viking. From sharecropper shacks to the halls of Congress, the book details the turning point summer of 1964 when 700 young Americans...more
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“The volunteers merely dropped in for a summer, then went home to question America. Some would spearhead the events that defined the 1960s—the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the antiwar movement, the women’s movement. Others, spreading ideals absorbed in Mississippi, would be forever skeptical of authority, forever democrats with a small d, and forever touched by this single season of their youth. But first, they had to survive Freedom Summer.” 0 likes
“nothing trite in SNCC’s founding statement: “Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear; love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice, hope ends despair. Peace dominates war, faith reconciles doubt.” 0 likes
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