LANSING, Mich. (June 20, 2024) — Today, the Michigan Senate voted to pass Senate Resolution 134, sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), commemorating the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer in Michigan. Freedom Summer refers to the work of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in the summer of 1964 to campaign and bring volunteers from all over the country to Mississippi to register Black voters, create Freedom Schools, establish libraries, and support the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to build an integrated political party to challenge the racist policies that barred non-whites from having a voice in state and local government.

“It is necessary to acknowledge the 60th Anniversary of Freedom Summer in Michigan not only because the legacy continues to inspire work towards equity and justice, but because Michigan has long been a national leader in voter registration, election turnout, and election security,” said Sen. Geiss. “The fight to secure the right to vote and dismantle systemic racism and discrimination continues to be an ongoing struggle in many parts of the country.”

COFO made a strategic decision to have almost all of the out-of-state volunteers be white in order to draw national attention to the brutality and corruption that dominated Mississippi. These volunteers included over 75 Michiganders, 1,000 student volunteers from northern colleges and universities, 254 clergy, 169 attorneys, and 50 medical professionals, as well as a staff of over 120 Mississippi residents.

All volunteers recognized that they would be facing violent resistance. During the Freedom Summer, two student volunteers and four Mississippi residents were murdered. In addition, 80 volunteers were brutally beaten, 37 churches were firebombed or burned, and at least 30 Black homes and businesses were destroyed.

Thanks to COFO and their volunteers, around 10% of the 17,000 African American voters who attempted to register to vote were successful. Freedom Schools in rural counties were attended by 30,000 students and over 50 Freedom libraries were established, providing adult literacy classes. In an election held by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 60,000 state residents voted to select an integrated slate of delegates to challenge the segregated state party delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention held in Atlantic City.

Sen. Geiss’ Senate Resolution 134 recognizes the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer and honors the Michigan residents who risked their own personal safety to join the 1,500 volunteers during that summer as Michiganders were then and continue to be on the side of history that bends the moral arc towards justice.