In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, large numbers of activists traveled throughout the southern United States marching to integrate public institutions, as well as educating and registering voters. Many of the volunteers concentrated reform efforts in Mississippi, where segregation was deeply ingrained and institutionalized.
During Freedom Summer 1964, recruits organized activities in local schools and community centers, expanded voter registration efforts, and worked towards establishing a political party to challenge the whites-only status quo. The largest site for Freedom Summer events was Hattiesburg, home of the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). Thanks to a generous Institute of Museum and Library Services federal grant, students and researchers can now return to Hattiesburg and the turbulence of those times through a digital archive established by the USM Libraries.
The collection currently includes letters, diaries, pamphlets, photographs, oral histories, and audio transcripts that focus on events that occurred in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Summer. The wealth of the archive is to be found in its extensive oral history and image files. The site contains lengthy interviews with major figures such as Charles Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, as well as interviews with local residents and northern Freedom Riders. High-quality digitized photographs and other images are fully searchable through the USM Libraries catalog and the Web site database.
In addition to original source documents from the period, a brief essay and timeline giving a historical context to the period are provided, as is a link to other relevant resources. The site also contains intellectual property rights and permissions information as well as preservation and digitization guidelines.
While the content of the archive is of great interest, the site itself appears to be in need of some updating and maintenance. Some audio-enhanced transcripts and picture files contain errors that prevent downloading. While search features work well, navigation through the site and away from the USM Libraries catalog could be improved. Finally, although messages on the "Manuscripts and Photographs" page indicate that more digitized materials are forthcoming, it appears that many of the pages have not recently been modified. Visitors to the digital archives will find here a fascinating collection of artifacts from a momentous period in U.S. history but will leave wishing for more.
Washington State University, Vancouver