Mississippi at Atlantic City



(c) 1964 Jo Freeman

By Charles M. Sherrod

In 1964, a year after Birmingham’s fire hoses were unleashed on Black children and a year before the March from Selma to Montgomery, SNCC decided to upgrade their protracted work in Mississippi. The Movement needed to create a conflict that would arouse the nation’s (white) consciousness, so the idea of Freedom Summer was born. Bob Moses and Fannie Lou Hamer were among those activists who birthed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) that same spring. At the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City later that summer, the MFDP would protest the exclusion of Blacks from the Jim Crow state Democratic Party delegation. Freedom Summer and the MFDP were examples of Movement activists taking radical actions for what in the 21st century would be considered the most conservative reforms. This report by Charles Sherrod tells an engaging and profound story about the formation of the MFDP, the struggles faced by and within the African-American community, and the tremendous challenges yet to be addressed.

It was a cool day in August be-
side the ocean. Atlantic City, 
New Jersey, was waiting for the Democratic National Convention to begin. In that Republican fortress history was about to be made. High on a billboard, smiling out at the breakers, was a picture of Barry Goldwater and an inscription, “In your heart you know he’s right.” Later someone had written underneath, “Yes, extreme right.” Goldwater had had his “moment,” two weeks before, on the other ocean. This was to be L. B. J.’s “moment,” and we were to find out that this was also his convention.

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party had been working rather loosely all summer. Money was as scarce as prominent friends. A small band of dedicated persons forged out of the frustration and aspirations of an oppressed people a wedge; a moral wedge that brought the monstrous political machinery of the greatest power on earth… Read the article (PDF).


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