Over the 10 weeks of summer in 1964, nearly 700 student volunteers, local residents and other social activists worked together to ensure that African Americans in Mississippi could exercise their vote to right. This historic moment in time has been aptly named as Freedom Summer.
While we owe thanks and appreciation to many of these individuals, were it not for these eight particular women the movement may have not been as effective, monumental or lasting. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of that summer to remember, making it only right that we pay homage to the ones who helped pave the way for future generations to have their voice heard.*
Ruby Doris Smith Robinson
Ruby served as the assistant secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Atlanta and helped organize the Freedom Summer campaign. Just one example of her well-known innovative techniques to combat racism is her impromptu protest on the runway of an airport after she was denied entrance to a flight to Guinea. Of course, she ended up making that flight and contributing so much more.
A key organizer for Freedom Summer, Ladner was very involved in the fight for equality even before 1964. She began really dedicating herself to the movement after hearing of the murder of Emmitt Till. After graduating high school a salutatorian, she enrolled at Jackson State University, where she became even more involved with the NAACP. She served on the front line of the Freedom Summer and went on to be an integral member in many of the marches and protests for equality.
Ella organized an event at Shaw University that led to the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), without which, Freedom Summer may never have occurred.
Annie Pearl Avery
Annie was a veteran of the historic Freedom Rides and an established figure in the Civil Rights movement by the time Freedom Summer came around. She was an active member of SNCC and the only person to be arrested during Bloody Sunday, which occurred during the march from Selma to Montgomery, where 600 protesters were attacked by lawmen, clubbed and beaten.
Victoria Gray Adams
Victoria opened Freedom Schools, the predecessor of our modern day charter schools, for African American youths to receive alternative educations for free. These schools were vital during Freedom Summer, as many of the student volunteers came from them. She was also a founder of the Mississippi Democratic Party, which eventually challenged the right of an all-white delegation to represent the state at the 1964 Democratic Convention.
After receiving her degree in pre-med from Tougaloo College, Moody became involved with the NAACP, SNCC and CORE, all huge organizations with goals of integration and racial equality. Her autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968), is praised for its brutally honest depictions of the lives of young African Americans who participated in the civil rights movement.
With her sister Dorie, mentioned above, she served as one of the summer’s most key organizers. Highly educated, with a PhD from Washington University in St Louis, she spent a great amount of her college years not only immersing herself in education, but also fighting the good fight, organizing many civil rights protests with her fellow classmates. She went on to have an illustrious career, teaching at colleges and universities, serving on city boards to rebuild communities, penning several articles and books and serving as a commentator on widely respected networks.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Hamer was known for her inspiration speeches and memorable hymns. She worked with the SNCC and became a major Freedom Summer organizer, known for being a courageous leader. Fannie went on to co-found the Mississippi Freedom Party along with Ella Baker.
*From a July 9, 2014 TheRoot article