A History of Freedom Libraries
Seeking Oral Histories
Description of Research Study
The purpose of this historical research study is to examine the role of books, literacy, and libraries in the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project and their impact on the people and communities involved with Freedom Summer.
In 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a loose affiliation of national and local civil rights organizations in Mississippi, conceived and implemented the Mississippi Summer Project, better known as "Freedom Summer." Ambitious goals for the Project included increased voter registration among black and poor white Mississippians, the creation of Freedom Schools for children, and the establishment of long term community centers, intended to provide libraries, literacy and civic education classes, and other educational and recreational activities for adults. Thousands of new and used books were donated by individuals, publishers, and organizations across the county for use in the Freedom Schools and community centers in cities and towns across Mississippi.
In addition to gathering data from archival materials, published accounts, and site visits, this research will include, wherever possible, oral histories obtained from Freedom Summer participants and observers. This study is conducted by Ms. Karen Cook, a doctoral candidate in information studies at the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences. The results of this study will be published initially as Ms. Cook's doctoral dissertation. At some future date, some or all of the study may be incorporated into additional scholarly publications or conference presentations.
What do YOU know?
Do you have knowledge concerning the books and libraries associated with COFO offices, Freedom Schools, or community centers? Were you involved with literacy classes? Or, do you know someone else who was involved and who might be willing and able to share their Freedom Library experiences or observations? Any information provided will help to preserve the knowledge of this important but little known aspect of civil rights and library history, before it is lost forever.
Ms. Cook will be travelling during the summer and fall of 2005 to communities in Mississippi where Freedom Schools and community centers were located. Her research will also take her to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Georgia. It may be possible to arrange face-to-face interviews in one of these locations.
Alternatively, interviews may be conducted by telephone, mail, or email.
For further information concerning the oral history interview process and this study, please read the Informed Consent and Permission to Quote Forms linked to this page. Prior to conducting any interview, you will be asked to sign and return copies of these forms to Ms. Cook.
Thank you for your participation—in Freedom Summer, and in this study.
If you can contribute your oral history to this research study, please email Ms. Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to her at:Ms. Karen Cook
School of Library and Information Studies
513 Main Library
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0252
Library School Office: 205-348-4610