Reconstructing education from the bottom up: SNCC's 1964 Mississippi Summer Project and African American culture

Joe Street*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


On 30 December 1963, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) executive committee approved Bob Moses' proposal for a summer voter registration project involving hundreds of white volunteers. Initially intended to highlight the brutality inherent in Mississippi's culture and to register large numbers of disfranchised black voters, the plans expanded to include more long term and holistic methods of addressing civil rights that encompassed what SNCC and its sister organizations in Mississippi called “educational and social” programmes. As freedom schools co-ordinator Liz Fusco asserted, this represented an acceptance that what could be done in Mississippi, could be deeper, more fundamental, more far-reaching, more revolutionary than voter registration alone … [It was] a decision to enter into every phase of the lives of the people of Mississippi … a decision to set the people free for politics in the only way that people really can become free, and that is totally. Freedom schools were central to SNCC's programme. Both institutions emphasized that knowledge of one's culture was crucial to the individual. In the case of the freedom schools, students would be encouraged to think freely and develop their own ideas about a free society. Charles Cobb, who conceived the idea of the freedom schools, envisaged the schools to be places “where the students could freely ask questions about all those things, political as well as academic, which troubled and excited them.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-296
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


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