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Voter registration

O'Dell, Hunter Pitts "Jack"

A valued organizer and fundraiser who was unapologetic about his early Communist associations, Hunter Pitts “Jack” O’Dell ranks among the most controversial figures of the civil rights movement. His role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was used by detractors as ammunition against both Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement at large. As O’Dell wrote to King upon his departure from SCLC: “Not the least formidable of the obstacles blocking the path to Freedom is the anti-Communist hysteria in our country which is deliberately kept alive by the defenders of the status-quo as a barrier to rational thinking on important social questions” (O’Dell, 12 July 1963).

Approximately 250 Montgomery residents attempt to register to vote; King opens MIA meeting at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church

Approximately two hundred and fifty black Montgomery residents attempt to register at the Board of Registrars office. King later delivers opening remarks at an MIA meeting on voter registration at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church. 

Freedom Summer

Although the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had labored for civil rights in rural Mississippi since 1961, the organization found that intense and often violent resistance by segregationists in rural areas of Mississippi would not allow for the kind of direct action campaigns that had been successful in urban areas such as Montgomery and Birmingham. The 1964 Freedom Summer project was designed to draw the nation’s attention to the violent oppression experienced by Mississippi blacks who attempted to exercise their constitutional rights, and to develop a grassroots freedom movement that could be sustained after student activists left Mississippi.

Jackson, Jimmie Lee

On the night of 18 February 1965, an Alabama state trooper shot Jimmie Lee Jackson in the stomach as he tried to protect his mother from being beaten at Mack’s Café. Jackson, along with several other African Americans, had taken refuge there from troopers breaking up a night march protesting the arrest of James Orange, a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Marion, Alabama. Jackson died from his wounds eight days later. Speaking at his funeral, King called Jackson “a martyred hero of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity” (King, 3 March 1965).


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