Freedom became goal in summer of ’64

The American experience has been one of ups and downs, shining triumphs and dark defeats.

That’s how it is when a republic tries to find its way into maturity.

The summer of 1964 saw triumph and defeat hurtle headlong into each other. To the nation’s great benefit, triumph would win out.

The nation’s experience is told by an acclaimed PBS documentary series, American Experience, which airs regularly on Panhandle PBS. On June 24, the WGBH-TV produced series will air “Freedom Summer,” beginning at 8 p.m.

“Freedom Summer” tells the story of brave young Americans who ventured into deeply segregated Mississippi to demand change. They sought to pressure state and local authorities to end policies that discriminated against black Americans.

Did they effect immediate change? Hardly. Instead, they bought themselves a lot of pain, they shed a lot of blood — and some of them gave their lives.

Three young men particularly became the synonymous with the struggle that ensued. Their names are James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Mention the names “Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner” today to anyone in Dixie old enough to remember the turbulent summer of ’64 and you’ll get knowing nods of approval or, sadly, disgust at what the men tried to accomplish during that “Freedom Summer.”

They were kidnapped and killed by Ku Klux Klansmen. It would take decades to bring their killers to justice, but they eventually were tried and convicted.

American Experience tells the compelling story of brave young Americans who ventured where they weren’t welcome, but who eventually could declare victory with the enactment of civil rights laws that changed the face of our nation.


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