It was a close race to the end, with a good showing by both events–but following the close of voting on Monday, our 2015 Ohio Memory Madness Champion was declared to be… the 1964 Freedom Summer volunteers in Oxford, Ohio!
As discussed in last week’s post, this photograph by George R. Hoxie captures volunteers during a moment of relaxation and song on the campus of Western College for Women (now part of Miami University) in June 1964. The participants, seen outside Clawson Hall and led by civil rights activist (and Mississippian) Fannie Lou Hamer, are likely singing one of the spirituals which became the soundtrack of that summer for the volunteers as they faced racial violence and segregationist sentiment.
This Oxford, Ohio, campus was the orientation site for young adults preparing to head to Mississippi for a summer registering black voters, and working to establish schools and medical and legal centers to serve as resources for African Americans in the South. During two week-long orientation sessions, the volunteers (largely white college students) were trained by organizers (primarily African American) on how to canvas and register voters, as well as in non-violent resistance and the kind of treatment they could expect during their time in Mississippi. Efforts of these volunteers, in spite of the sometimes deadly violence they faced, were successful. Awareness of the state of civil rights in the South increased drastically, contributing in part to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and more than 17,000 black Mississippians tried to register to vote, though government officials only allowed 1,600 of the applicants to register.
We’d like to thank the Smith Library of Regional History in Oxford, who has shared this remarkable bit of history via Ohio Memory. To learn more about the collections of the Smith Library, visit their website! Thank you to all who voted in and shared this year’s Ohio Memory Madness contest, as well–we look forward to next year’s competition!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!