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America is the 1960’s was a time of darkness and light. Like a modern day pandemic, many were infected with the scourge of racism. In certain regions of the country the racism was overt and obvious, while in others it was covert, expressed in a comment or disapproving look. Few places of America remained untouched by this evil. 

Mississippi in the 1960’s was a deep south state with all of the cultural components of Jim Crow segregation and a pro-racism party known as the Dixiecrats running many government positions. Many people today find it difficult to call out a comment of racism, sexual harassment, or other wicked human sickness from the comfort of their twenty-first century more diverse society, but the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party threw comfort to the wind and did what was right. If only politicians still existed like that today. 

The Democratic party of the time went out of their way to find reasons to deny African Americans the ability to participate in the democratic process or to blame, shame, and throw up roadblocks to prevent their participation through emotional persuasion. To show the fallacy of these racism dog whistles the Council Of Federated Organizations arrived in Mississippi to coordinate the efforts of many organizations to seek rights for African Americans. Their voting drives quickly discovered that African Americans not only deeply wanted to be part of the political process, but they wanted to make their voice heard within it. 

1964, a year after the initial voting registration drives, was a passionate and active time in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. Known as the Freedom Summer, Civil Rights activists advocated in as many ways as possible for African Americans to have their rightful rights. One of the ways that they fought back at the established segregated systems was to form a rival political faction within the Democratic Party, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. 

The Freedom Party had goals that went beyond the current moment. They developed a local, county, and state architecture and developed a political party platform as a result of the discussions and debates at each of the levels. They challenged the Democratic Party to be seated at the upcoming Democratic Convention in Atlantic City in addition to the more mainstream Democrats. Their goals, while noble, were defeated by the agnostic and cold-hearted pragmatism of others including President Lyndon Johnson who worried it would cost them votes later in the general election. His concerns, questions about their righteousness notwithstanding, were based on the southern Democrats telling conservative voters to vote for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater due to his opposition to civil rights. 

Despite their inability to affect the Democratic Convention in a meaningful way, they had a tremendous continuing impact on the electorate at large. Many African American activists were enlivened and encouraged by this path towards political power and it inspired not only continued voter registrations, but it motivated African American political activists to champion their issues after they saw how weak the overall Democratic party structure. White Democrats disgracefully defected to the Republican party over the issues of Civil Rights and during the 1968 Democratic Convention they joined with other allies to become the official Democratic representatives, a goal that had hoped to achieve in 1964, but still laudable and impress nonetheless. 

The Mississippi Freedom Democrats were a group of people who were fighting for what’s right in a time when too many were happy to be wrong. Their party succeeded in standing up for the civil rights of African Americans and creating a party that featured more African Americans, other minorities, and women. The Democratic Party today is better off from their contributions and so is our nation. 


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