Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s

By Simon Hall | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Organizing Tradition

Our criticism of Vietnam policy does not come from what we know of
Vietnam, but from what we know of America.

—Bob Moses, 1965

Toward the end of the summer of 1964, civil rights workers from all over Mississippi traveled to Neshoba County to attend a memorial service for James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. These three civil rights activists, who had been working in the Magnolia State as part of the “Freedom Summer” project, had been abducted and brutally murdered on June 21 after traveling to Longdale, near Philadelphia, to investigate a Ku Klux Klan church-burning. Standing in the quiet sunny glen, amid the blackened rubble of the Mount Zion Baptist Church that had also functioned as a Freedom School, Bob Moses addressed the mourners. Radical historian and activist Howard Zinn recalled that the SNCC leader spoke “with a bitterness we were not accustomed to seeing in him.”1 Moses condemned the federal government for showing great willingness to send troops thousands of miles to Vietnam to defend “freedom” while consistently refusing to provide civil rights workers protection from white violence.2 Referring to the headline of the morning newspaper, which read “President Johnson Says ‘Shoot to Kill’ in Gulf of Tonkin,” Moses said, “that is what we’re trying to do away with—the idea that whoever disagrees with us must be killed.”3 During the early 1960s, as civil rights workers strove to mobilize African Americans at the grass-roots level, they became radicalized by their experiences. This, in turn, helped shape their response to the war in Vietnam.

Between June and August 1964, the SNCC-dominated Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) launched a major civil rights organizing drive in Mississippi. Known as “Freedom Summer,” it brought hundreds of white, middle-class northern college students to the Magnolia State to work with veteran black civil rights activists, in a bold and creative attempt to focus national attention on the problems facing Mississippi blacks and compel the federal government to intervene. The project’s

-13-

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Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Organizing Tradition 13
  • Chapter 2 - Black Power 39
  • Chapter 3 - Black Moderates 80
  • Chapter 4 - Racial Tensions 105
  • Chapter 5 - Radicalism and Respectability 141
  • Chapter 6 - New Coalitions, Old Problems 167
  • Conclusion 187
  • Notes 195
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 255
  • Acknowledgments 263
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