In June of 1964, a campaign was launched to educate black Mississippians and register them to vote. In the episode, Gloria Clark, a school teacher from Massachusetts, recalls riding a bus to Memphis to prepare for her role in the campaign called Freedom Summer. Clark remembers being assigned to Holly Springs and her initial reaction to that assignment.
On June 21st, three civil rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman disappeared after being released from a Neshoba County Jail. Their bodies were found two months later. Clark explains how their disappearance affected her.
Like many Jewish children in the South, John Levingston of Cleveland, Mississippi attended kindergarten at a Christian church. In the episode, Levingston remembers how that led to some confusion for him.
Growing up in a Reform Congregation, Levingston did not participate in some traditional Jewish practices. He recalls his decision to learn Hebrew and have a bar mitzvah in his late thirties.
The once thriving Jewish population of the Delta has dwindled as younger generations have moved away. Levingston explains why he chose that as the topic of his bar mitzvah talk.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer—a time when black Mississippians worked with northern students to confront Jim Crow and claim their rights as citizens. To commemorate this Freedom struggle, we are combing the collection to bring you a series of Mississippi Moments that explore Freedom Summer from a variety of perspectives: from organizers to volunteers to yes, even law enforcement.
In this episode, we hear from Charlie Capps. While Capps would later go on to a distinguished career as a Mississippi legislator, in spring of '64, he was the newly-elected sheriff of Bolivar County. As an elected sheriff in a county where few blacks could vote, he was the first line of defense of Mississippi’s segregated order. He recalls the fear, apprehension and resentment many in the white community felt as civil rights workers came to Mississippi to upend the Jim Crow system of racial segregation.
Ray Pittman of Hattiesburg joined the Marines in 1942 as a demolition man. In this episode, he describes a typical demolition team and the dangerous jobs they performed.
Pittman’s team suffered heavy casualties during some of the worst battles in the Pacific theater. He recalls how a spare pistol saved his life on the island of Iwo Jima.
Pittman also remembers the day his friend Maxwell was killed while they were on a recon mission and how their actions prevented an ambush by the Japanese.
This D-Day, as we pause to remember our soldiers who fought so valiantly on the beaches at Normandy, let us also consider those brave men who were fighting on the other side of the world with this--our 400th episode of Mississippi Moments.
(the picture is of a Marshall Island enemy block house blown up by Ray's team)