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ERIC Number: EJ863700
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 18
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 17
ISSN: ISSN-1535-0584
White Involvement in the Civil Rights Movement: Motivation and Sacrifices
Clark, J. Spencer
American Educational History Journal, v36 n2 p377-394 2009
In 1964, the Freedom Summer Project brought nearly one thousand volunteers to the South, most of which were northern white students, to facilitate Black voter registration. Allowing northern Whites to take part in the Movement created a tension within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as "two principal concerns were whether they would in some way undermine or usurp less confident Black leadership and whether their mere presence would provoke local Whites to more acts of violence." These concerns did not rest solely on the fact that most of the volunteers were White, as "whites had been involved from the beginning" with a small number participating in the sit-ins and in SNCC's founding conference, while "some of the most active and visible Whites were southerners" such as Bob Zellner and Mary King, had been involved with SNCC for three or four years by Freedom Summer. Instead most of the tension rested on the fact that the northern Whites who participated in the Freedom Summer Project were seen as outsiders by Black and White southerners. Although regarded as outsiders, northern Whites were effective in helping to implement an integral part of the Freedom Summer Project, which were the Freedom Schools. The goal of the Freedom Schools was to better equip southern Blacks to fulfill civic duties, such as voting, because "literacy and an understanding of the Constitution were necessary for black citizens to pass the qualifying test enabling them to vote." However, it would take much more than the act of voting to change the status of Black citizenship and the mindset of the status quo in southern society. Therefore, southern Whites were more valuable from an educational standpoint in providing a White voice that came from within southern society, to foster change among the status quo. Southern White activists realized to change their society would require a commitment to changing the practices of everyday southern life, a commitment with much different implications than those required to teach in the Freedom Schools. This article asks what would motivate these White activists to sacrifice their privilege within a democracy for the whole of their society, and in many cases face near isolation from the society that they were sacrificing their rituals to change?
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A