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Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader (Paperback)

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Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader documents the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, when SNCC and CORE workers and volunteers arrived in the Deep South to register voters and teach non-violence, and more than 60,000 black Mississippians risked everything to overturn a system that had brutally exploited them.

In the 44 original documents in this anthology, you’ll read their letters, eavesdrop on their meetings, shudder at their suffering, and admire their courage. You’ll witness the final hours of three workers murdered on the project’s first day, hear testimony by black residents who bravely stood up to police torture and Klan firebombs, and watch the liberal establishment betray them. 

These vivid primary sources, collected by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provide both first-hand accounts of this astounding grassroots struggle as well as a broader understanding of the Civil Rights movement.

The selected documents are among the 25,000 pages about the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The manuscripts were collected in the mid-1960s, at a time when few other institutions were interested in saving the stories of common people in McComb or Ruleville, Mississippi. Most have never been published before.

About the Author

 Michael Edmonds is Deputy Director of the Library–Archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society and curator of its online collection of 25,000 historical documents about Freedom Summer. A 1976 graduate of Harvard University, he earned an MS degree at Simmons College in 1979 and taught part-time at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The author of several articles and books, Edmonds has won national awards from the American Folklore Society and the American Association for State and Local History.


Praise For…

Wisconsin may seem like an unlikely repository for one of the richest collections of historical materials from Freedom Summer...a challenge to the very heart of the segregated South...The collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society was built thanks to the work of a handful of UW history students and the Wisconsin Historical Society Director, Lee Fishel... As "political activists making their way to academia," the students felt they had the experience and knowledge to collect documents from many of the grassroots participants in the project. Over the last two years, staff at the Historical Society have worked to digitize more than 30,000 pages from the collection and put them online for students researchers, and the general public to browse at The voices of many of these participants, and those who challenged them, are represented in...Risking Everything...Edmonds said he envisions it (the book) having a broad audience: those who participated in the event, individuals who are curious about learning more about this aspect of the civil rights movement, and university faculty who can assign it as a selection of primary sources for their students. (Kim Ukura, The Capital Times)

Not long ago, when a volunteer expressed surpise at what he discovered about the Civil Rights Movement, historian Michael Edmonds realized that the young man only knew " a children's book understanding...a sanitized version" of the movement. It 's an understanding that many Americans have.This book seeks to remedy that in a small, but monumental, way...Through eyewitness reports and information from more than 40 documents, editor Michael Edmonds brings readers an in-the-trenches look at Freedom Summer in a way you'll never get from any class. Included are letters home from Freedom workers, training manuals, essays, testimonies, transripts, photographs and curriculums; as Edmonds himself said, "No punches are pulled." (Terri Schlichenmeyer, Philadelphia Tribune)

The book is worthy for showing the complicated organization that went into the multifaceted project on a large scale and on the small scale, and the day-to-day impressions of the volunteers themselves. A letter home from Illinois student, Robert Feinglass captures his encounters with the poverty, fear, and oppression of the Mississippi residents: It is the most stimulating, satisfying work I have ever done.  Nothing is ever enough; there is no such thing as a job finished: there is only progress. We are involved here in a process of uniting, joining, becoming a mutually interested community.  The song says it well: we shall overcome. (Dina Weinstein, Jewish Book Council)

...What emerges out of the collected documents, then, is a sense that Freedom Summer leaders and participants belived that a holistic approach was necessary for political empowement of black communities...Highlights of the collection include Fannie Lou Hamer's deposition about the torture of herself and other black women by ploice officers and a Freedom Schools curriculum...Because these documents are all accessible online courtesy of the WHS, Edmond's collection would be most ideal for teaching  undergraduates, (David Ponton III, The Journal of Southern History)

Rather than relying purely on a historical narrative, this volume - expertly edited by the deputy director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives in Madison - provides readers with the documents, letters, and firsthand accounts produced by the people who made the Freedom Summer of 1964 possible...The documents, letters, and records organized in Risking Everything...provide a truly unique window into the intelligence, moral rectitude, and unfathomable guts shared by the ordinary civil rights workers who propelled the civil rights struggle in the 1960s. (Stephen Kercher, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Voyageur Magazine)

Product Details
ISBN: 9780870206788
ISBN-10: 0870206788
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Publication Date: May 30th, 2014
Pages: 256
Language: English