Segments in this Video

Mississippi 1964: Battle for Black Voter Rights (02:36)


In the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, a state with one of the most discriminatory polling systems, a battle was launched to let black people vote. Blacks who tried to register lost their jobs, were intimidated, harassed, or even killed.

Mississippi Resists Voter Reform (02:01)

State-run Mississippi polling programs supported its segregated and discriminatory policies. Using private funds and public forums, the Citizens Council was formed to prevent integration.

Voter Registration: Mobilization of Black Mississippians (02:47)

"Freedom Summer of '64" had two goals: mobilize black Mississippians to register to vote and educate them to pass the registration requirements. Their goal was to outmaneuver the repressive legal system by calling for nationwide assistance.

Out-of-State Lawyers Come to Mississippi (02:09)

When the National Lawyers Guild asked for lawyers around the country to go to Mississippi, there was an enthusiastic response. The Mississippi bar was shamed into letting out-of-state lawyers come and defend its people.

White Voters vs. Civil Rights (02:04)

Bill Higgs, a white attorney, lost his job for representing civil rights defendants. George Crockett from the National Lawyers Guild asked all its members that were volunteering to meet in Detroit for a session on Mississippi law.

Black Lawyer Volunteers for Civil Rights Work (02:20)

Jack Young, a black lawyer, was one of the three volunteer lawyers from Mississippi. He was approached in 1960 to work with the NAACP on civil rights cases.

National Lawyers Guild vs. NAACP (02:27)

The National Lawyers Guild had been labeled a communist front organization because of the underdogs it represented. The NAACP Defense Fund even tried to discredit them initially.

First Civil Rights Cases in Mississippi (05:28)

In the spring before "Freedom Summer of '64," the National Lawyers Guild office opened in Jackson, MS. George Crockett explains his first civil rights case. Voter registration volunteers suffer violence and intimidation.

Non-Violent Sit-In Protests Influx of White Lawyers (04:42)

A turning point occurred when students held a sit-in at the Jackson Public Library. Hollis Watkins from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee initially felt that the white lawyers coming in to help would overshadow the initiatives themselves.

Lawyers Battle Segregation in Mississippi (02:54)

The National Lawyers Guild had 66 attorneys helping in MS and another 100 volunteers from several other organizations. Two black and two white law students that came to MS together found they weren't allowed to do many things together.

Volunteers Risk Arrest to Bail Out Others in Mississippi (03:38)

Legal volunteers risked arrest and violence from law enforcement authorities and white citizens. They worked to get reasonable bails set for those who had been arrested and to get them released and back working for the cause.

Mississippi: Police and KKK in Collusion (03:28)

Three civil rights activists disappeared while working on a church in Philadelphia. It was later discovered that police gave the workers to the KKK, who then murdered them.

1965: Voting Rights Act (02:23)

At the end of summer in 1964, 1,700 black Mississippians were registered to vote, although 17,000 had tried to register. On August 6, 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

Political Institutions Conspire to Keep Blacks from Congressional Representation (04:26)

Mississippi's political institutions became a powerful force against black people' right to vote. Redistricting by the state legislature altered district lines so that it was nearly impossible for black voters to elect black representatives.

Mississippi Redistricting Unravels (02:16)

Henry Kirksey became the cartographer to show the distribution of the black and white people across the state. It took until 1983 to restore the congressional distribution after the redistricting.

Black Elected Officials in Mississippi (02:21)

The summer of '64 was a struggle of a lifetime for black voters in Mississippi. Though there are over 800 black elected officials, they have not been the catalyst for change for black Mississippians.

Grassroots Organizations vs. Mississippi's Political Machine (03:10)

In 1994, a proposal to reduce the number of seats in the MS legislature threatened to eliminate black seats. Grassroots organizations such as Southern Echo continued the struggle against the state through education.

First Black Woman Law Graduate (03:04)

Attorney Constance Slaughter-Harvey was the first black woman to graduate from the University of MS Law School in 1970. The fight to end white racism in America is a most difficult battle.

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Mississippi, America: Legal Battles of the Freedom Summer

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In the summer of 1964, a handful of Mississippi attorneys issued a nationwide call for assistance as they struggled to defend imprisoned civil rights activists. This classic documentary examines the work of local and out-of-state lawyers who answered the call. Through archival footage and riveting eyewitness accounts, the film illuminates the legal dimensions of the frontline battle for African Americans’ right to vote. Interviewees include civil rights attorney William Kunstler; U.S. Congressman and former SNCC activist John Lewis (D-Georgia); National Lawyers Guild Mississippi Project director George Crockett; and Dr. Aaron Henry, former Mississippi NAACP president. (57 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL39531

ISBN: 978-1-60467-381-4

Copyright date: ©1995

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.