Thinking Inside the Box

MPTV Remembers Freedom Summer

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV


Hi again, Ellis Bromberg "Thinking Inside the Box" on mptv.org and MPTV MOBILE.

Nineteen sixty-four, 50 years ago, was a remarkable year. As an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE episode we recently broadcast pointed out, 1964 was the year the Beatles came to America -- including a visit to Milwaukee -- launching pop music's British Invasion. That year, the publishing of the paperback edition of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" gave impetus to the women's rights movement. It was when Berkeley students rose up in what was the first sit-in on a college campus, and when Barry Goldwater's conservative revolution took over the Republican Party.

The day after he shocked the sports world by defeating Sonny Liston and becoming boxing's heavyweight champion, Cassius Clay announced he had become a Muslim, and taken on a new name, Muhammed Ali. Just weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, the new president, Lyndon Johnson, declared a "war on poverty" in his 1964 State of the Union Address. Later in the year he would ask Americans to help him build "the Great Society."

Now, as for me, I turned 12 years old, and I recall visiting the New York World's Fair that year where the iconic Ford Mustang (looked just like that!) was on display for the very first time.

Exactly 50 years ago, in June 1964, more than 700 students and Civil Rights activists launched Freedom Summer. That was a campaign to change Mississippi's voter registration laws. It was conceived as a nonviolent initiative, but three young activists, two whites from the North and one local black volunteer, soon went missing. The murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, confirmed later in the summer, helped garner support for the pending Civil Rights Bill in Congress.

The events of 1964, including Freedom Summer and controversies over voter registration, continue to have an impact on our lives today. Right here in Wisconsin, voter rights and regulations have been debated in the courts and the media for the last few years.

This month, Channel 10 and PBS explore Freedom Summer and the legacy of the fight for voters' rights in several programs that are worth your time.

On Monday evening, June 23, at 6:30, the MPTV series I REMEMBER features Rev. Joseph Ellwanger, the pastor emeritus of Milwaukee's Cross Lutheran Church. He was a pastor in Alabama in the mid-'60s, he led a march in Selma in support of voting rights for African Americans, and was also among a small group of religious leaders who met with President Johnson, urging his support for the Voting Rights Act.

Then on Tuesday night, June 24, at 8 o'clock, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents a detailed look at FREEDOM SUMMER, that nonviolent effort to change voting rights laws that turned deadly.

Right after that, at 10 o'clock, a new MPTV production, a BLACK NOUVEAU special, OUR RIGHT TO VOTE, looks at the current status of voters' rights and laws in Wisconsin.

Now if you miss any of the broadcasts you can find the programs archived right here on mptv.org; please check them out. Thank you, and I'll be back soon with more "Thinking Inside the Box."