Indirect activism effects


in History, Law, Politics

The fact that about 17,000 blacks traveled to the courthouse attests to the persistence of the volunteers and the extraordinary courage of those attempting to register. Although only 1,600 of the completed applications were accepted by state registrars, the lonely trips to the courthouse proved to be a major step toward the democratization of voting in Mississippi and throughout the South. The many instances of delay, obstruction, and harassment of the applicants were duly recorded by the volunteers, thus providing the evidence for several important voter discrimination suits. In addition, the inequalities uncovered over the course of the summer helped to generate momentum on behalf of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Just as important as these formal political consequences was the effect this activity had on the black community. For its part, the white community observed the registration attempts with something more than benign indifference. In many communities, newspaper editors did their share for the old order by printing daily lists of those attempting to register, thereby making the names of the registrants available to anyone who might by inclined to take offencse at such a brazen act of defiance. Historically, the publication of such lists had been enough to deter all but the most courageous, or craziest, blacks from trying to register to vote. But as more and more people donned their Sunday best for the trip to the courthouse, a curious thing happened: the daily newspaper lists of those registering to vote were transformed from an effective means of social control into a vehicle for gaining prestige in the black community. As one volunteer proudly noted in a letter home, “in Panola County now the Negro citizens look with pride at their names in the Panolian; they point out the names of friends and neighbours and hurry to the courthouse to be enlisted on the honour roll.”

McAdam, Doug. Freedom Summer. Oxford University Press; Oxford. 1988. p. 81

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