We have hung our heads and cried, Cried for those like Lee who died, Died for you and he died for me, Died for the cause of equality, But we’ll never turn back. – Staple Singers
Freedom summer was one of the most noted times in African-American history. However, there are some historical aspects about that summer that have been forgotten.
In 1964, three civil rights workers’ bodies were dug up from a 14-foot dam in Neshoba County, Mississippi: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. In the city of McComb, Mississippi, bombings were occurring almost every day. It was so bad that the city was deemed as “Bomb Capital of the World”
during that time.
The small town of McComb is located outside of Jackson, Mississippi, the state’s capital. It is noted that over a dozen bombings, riots, and other violent acts took place during that summer in McComb. If you were black and involved in any type of civil rights activities, such as voting or providing assistance to civil rights workers, you were considered a threat and targeted by whites.
Blacks were being arrested for any and everything that white people felt threatened by their being. Two teenage black students at a freedom school, who had been receiving harassing phone calls, were arrested for using profanity over the phone. The students were tried without counsel and sentenced to one year in jail under the “Mississippi Phone Harassment Law.” The individuals who were calling and harassing the teenagers received no jail time.
Churches and businesses were burned down. It was not uncommon to go to bed and hear explosive sounds during the night. No protection was provided to the black communities, as most of the law officials were part of the problem.. Law officials would only arrive to hide evidence, intimidate victims, or make victims disappear altogether.
By September 20, 1964, blacks in McComb were fed-up when the home of freedom fighter “Mama Quinn” was bombed. However, Mama Quinn was arrested for bombing her own home. Blacks had accepted the fact that there wouldn’t be any protection for exercising their constitutional rights from local and federal authorities. So, they decided it was time to take things into their own hands.
The black residents of the city took to the streets and began destroying everything in sight. They burned police cars, destroyed businesses owned by white people, and shot and killed several white residents.
Newspapers reported that a “Negro Riot” was occurring in McComb. Days later, Mama Quinn and three other freedom fighters traveled to the nation’s capital and met with President Lyndon B. Johnson. The next week, three white men were charged with racial bombings in McComb.
Click here for a timeline of events that took place in McComb, Mississippi