The bulk of this collection contains affidavits and legal papers filed in civil action suits which document acts of violence committed against Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) workers between 1961 and 1964. All activity documented occurred in Mississippi, and much of the violence that occurred was inflicted by police and white civilians. Also contained in this collection are materials relating to COFO, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, comprising a mission statement, and a document sent to the SNCC organization pertaining to voter registration of African-Americans living in Mississippi, all of which reflect the effort of the MFDP to have African-American Congressmen elected in Mississippi.
The last item in the half document box is a pamphlet entitled "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story." Created in cartoon format, it appears to target a younger audience.
The oversize box contains Civil Rights newspapers published in Mississippi. Included are issues of "The Kudzu," the "Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Newsletter," and the AMississippi Free Press."
This primary source material from COFO and MFDP help document the massive, non-violent struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi in the early 1960's. The collection confirms evidence of backlash demonstrated by intolerance and violence that occurred as a result of this struggle.
Collection is arranged into one series.
Biographical / Historical:
The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) arose from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), founded in 1960 to coordinate student sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina and elsewhere. COFO, was organized by Robert Moses in 1961, to secure the release of Freedom Riders in Mississippi. Many COFO workers were originally members of SNCC. COFO's goal was to increase the percentage of registered African-American voters in Mississippi, from the low 7% that existed in 1964.
In the summer of 1964, COFO was a key player in the organization of the Mississippi Summer Project. Prior to the summer, many white and African-American students, primarily from the South and the Northeast, organized to lead demonstrations, and to create political awareness among the large African-American population in Mississippi. During the summer, COFO was successful in setting up "freedom schools" and community centers throughout the state. This encouraged the emergence of young leaders who would teach African-Americans to articulate their needs and discontents within the existing socio-political structure in Mississippi. This activity, however, produced a severe white backlash, and many acts of violence occurred against COFO workers. These actions, many of them police instigated, are documented in this collection through affidavits and other legal documents on civil action.
Another accomplishment of COFO was the establishment of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The MFDP enrolled the majority of African-Americans who were systematically denied access to the delegate selection process of the regular Mississippi Democratic Party (MDP). The MFDP organized itself along the same lines, contained many of the same rules, and divided into the same Congressional districts as the MDP. MFDP's goal, however, was to contest seats in Congress traditionally held by white Mississippians, in order to create a more equal representation of the state as a whole.
Edwin King was a white Methodist minister originally from Vicksburg, MI. Although raised with a traditional Mississippi upbringing, he had the opportunity, while attending Milsap College, to work with black students from Tougaloo College. This had a profound influence on his life. When he and his wife were graduated from Milsap College in the early '50's, they attended Boston University for graduate studies in seminary and social work, respectively, and decided that they could no longer live in the South. They were conscientious objectors to the racist attitudes of their neighbors and did not want to confront them (the neighbors or the attitudes). However, this was changed by a serendipitous dinner with Reverend Abernathy. Reverend King and several others were having dinner at a black restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama when everyone in the party was arrested. From that time, Reverend King and his wife were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Collection donated by Ed King on September 17, 1996.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Materials related to the Civil Rights struggle, voter registration drive in Holly Springs, summer 1964: includes diaries, correspondence, business records, periodical articles, newsletters, and ephemera.
Scope and Contents:
The Ruth Koenig collection includes personal and business correspondence, pictures, and various printed material. The collection is arranged in four series as follows:
Series 1: CORRESPONDENCE: letters to/from Ruth Koenig, "The Gang," and other people.
Series 2: BUSINESS RECORDS: organizational documents pertaining to "Friends of SNCC" and the Holly Springs Project and financial records. There is also a sub-series that holds documentation concerning SNCC, which includes press releases and Mississippi incident reports from 1964.
Series 3: EPHEMERA: two diaries written by Ruth Koenig, and transcripts of two Freedom Songs.
Series 4: PRINT MEDIA: issues of various independent and local newspapers including the Student Voice and the South Reporter; also clippings pertaining to the Mississippi Summer Project from national newspapers and magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.
Biographical / Historical:
In 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was established by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an alliance of four civil rights groups: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE); and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The purpose of the Freedom Summer was to develop a unified voter registration program in Mississippi to support the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) at the National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. Furthermore, COFO hoped to attract the government and nation's attention through the help of hundreds of predominately northern, white students.
Lasting from late June to mid-August 1964, the Freedom Summer Project was closely followed by the northern media, and grabbed the attention of the New Left. Ultimately, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project established a black political presence in the state of Mississippi, as well as organized various programs including the Freedom Schools and Community Centers.
Ruth Koenig was a 23-year-old schoolteacher from Schenectady, New York, when she volunteered for the Mississippi Freedom Summer in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She stated that it was the 1963 Birmingham bombing which compelled her to participate in the Freedom Summer. During her three months in Mississippi, Koenig taught at the Freedom Schools, signed new members for the MFDP, and helped to organize voter registration drives. In 1966, Koenig returned to Mississippi to observe the changes she helped to generate through her participation in the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Since that time, she has worked predominately in the education field, and has continued to rally for human rights, as well as environmental and peace issues.
Ruth Koenig Papers [unprocessed manuscript collection], University of Southern Mississippi, McCain Library and Archives, accession number: AM01-114.
The Ruth Koenig Mississippi Summer Collection was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1996 by Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Collection is open for research.
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