Cornell II Program
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 23 – August 3, 2019
Faculty: La TaSha Levy, University of Washington, and Nicole Burrowes, University of Texas at Austin
Factotum: Jenny Zhang, Ohio State University
This seminar examines one of the most radical moments in civil rights history—the 1964 Mississippi Project. Widely known as “Freedom Summer,” this civil rights campaign organized a multi-faceted program that challenged white supremacy in education and racial terror in the community through the establishment of Freedom Schools, voter registration drives, and an alternative political party called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Even more, Freedom Summer called on Black women and men from the community, many of whom were poor and uneducated, to lead their own movement.
It was during the Freedom Summer campaign that activists debated the merits of non-violence versus self-defense; the limits of charismatic male leadership; and the role of white allies in the struggle for Black freedom. In the face of extraordinary violence and economic deprivation, Black Mississippians waged one of the most powerful, yet understudied, movements in civil rights history, and they modeled the maxim that “ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”
Using primary sources, music, film, and scholarly texts, students will explore the 1964 Freedom Summer Project in order to understand diverse struggles, leadership styles, and competing interpretations of what it means to be free. Borrowing directly from the original Freedom School curriculum, students will contemplate the “myths of society” as well as theoretical and conceptual frameworks necessary for the creation of a just society. This course also seeks to draw connections through a roaming classroom format, in which we will occasionally gather at various historic sites in our surrounding community.