Podcast

Freedom Summer, Bob Moses, and the Fight for First Class Citizenship

Bruce Watson
Bob Moses

Journalist Bruce Watson talks about FREEDOM SUMMER: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy (Viking Press). And the great civil rights leader Bob Moses talks about the link between the right to vote and the right to a quality education. The new book he’s edited is QUALITY EDUCATION AS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT: Creating a Grassroots Movement (Beacon Press).

Mississippi now has more African-American politicians than any other state. It’s come a long way since Jim Crow days when people were brutally beaten or even murdered for trying to vote, public accommadations were under apartheid, and black children went to schools without textbooks or desks. Mississippi was a racial hell-hole.

The change took the blood, sweat and tears of many Americans, white and black. The edifice of Jim Crow began to crumble in the summer of 1964, when more than 700 young idealistic civil rights workers from across the nation came to Mississippi to register black citizens to vote and open Freedom Schools for their children. And the political monopoly of the all white Mississippi Democratic Party was challenged by Fannie Lou Hamer and other black Mississipeans at the 1964 national convention in Atlantic City.

It was Freedom Summer. On the very first day of that summer, three civil rights workers, two white and one black, were brutally murdered. But by the end of August, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, and the young people it had organized, had changed the political landscape of Mississippi forever, and, with it, the nation.

Bruce Watson recounts that historic moment in the life of our nation in FREEDOM SUMMER: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy. Watson, a historical journalist, is also author of BREAD AND ROSES, SACCO AND VANZETTI, and THE MAN WHO CHANGED HOW BOYS AND TOYS WERE MADE.

Read a excerpt from FREEDOM SUMMER

Watch Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony at the 1964 Democratic National Convention

Bob Moses was regarded by many as the saint of Freedom Summer. After the civil rights movement of the 60’s ended, the modest, soft-spoken former SNCC field secretary went back to doing what he had done before getting involved with SNCC — teaching math. But in the 1980’s he turned it into a new arena for social change. He created the Algebra Project with help from a Macarthur genius grant.  The aim: to help low-income students and students of color get the math skills they need to become “full citizens of today’s technological society.” The project has turned into a new civil rights movement aimed at ending the last bastion of Jim Crow — our nation’s schools. He’s edited a new book of essays about the issue, QUALITY EDUCATION AS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.

Read an excerpt from QUALITY EDUCATION AS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT

Read about the Young People’s Project, an offshoot of Bob Moses’ Algebra Project, run by his son, Omo Moses.

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About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.

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