I grew up watching movies documenting the Civil Rights Movement such as Mississippi Burning, PBS documentaries, and reading books on the topic. My interest in African American history is not new, it has always been an interest of mine, but never a college major until recently. When I realized Geraldine Wilson was part of the Mississippi Summer Project, I was amazed. This young woman from Philadelphia was among the many who migrated South in a fight for freedom. Despite my knowledge in African American history, what I knew about the Mississippi Summer Project, or Freedom Summer, was the murders of three activist, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. This was obviously not enough. I guess you could say it was time for me to read a couple of books.
The 1964 Mississippi Summer Project brought over seven hundred college students together. These students were taught how to respond to the violence they would face as they gathered in the North to head to the state of Mississippi.
Here’s to the state of Mississippi,
For Underheath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find.
Whoa the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin’ when it reads the present time.
Whoa here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!
Here’s to the people of Mississippi
Who say the folks up north, they just don’t understand
And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
The sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands
They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of”
Paul Ochs—Here’s to the State of Mississippi
Given that most who participated in the Freedom/Summer Project were Northern, white, and of the middle class, I suspect Geraldine could have been a participant or a trainer for her family was closely involved and members of SNCC. When I first read her application, it was difficult to read her writing. It was legible, but it was difficult to understand how a person could reply to questions such as who to contact to bail you out of jail or who to notify about injuries? This only shows these volunteers of Freedom Summer bravery and willingness to do something.
Name: Geraldine L. Wilson
Age: Over 25
School: Temple University
Major: Elementary Education
School Address/Telephone Number
Home Address: 1345 North Alden Street
Mother’s Name: Hilda C. Wilson
Father’s Name: Deceased
List your college’s activities: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, University Religion Council; University Christian Movement, Canterbury Club, Elementary Education Club, Class Representative to Education Council, Co-Chairman of Brotherhood Dinner, Modern Dance Group
List your last three jobs and the years you held them: Director of House of Industry, Program Director at the House of Industry, and Teacher within the Philadelphia Public School System
List your college, college area, and home town newspaper: Temple News, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Evening Bulletin, The Philadelphia Daily News
List the social, fraternal, political, community, and other organizations you belong to:
Delta Sigma Theta, NAACP, Board of (?) Social Relations, Committee for Equal Job Opportunities
Describes briefly the civil rights activities you have participated in: Geraldine briefly describes her work with the Philadelphia SNCC chapter and the Chester situation (whatever that is). Also wrote about her time with the NAACP within the Labor Committee.
If you have ever been arrested, give place, date, and Status of Case: N/A
List ten contacts who could be helpful in securing your release from jail if you are arrested or who could help with publicity about your activities:
Mr. Cecil Moore, President at the time of the NAACP
Miss Constance E. Clayton, first African American female superintendent in Philadelphia
Mr. Mitchell Hinton
Reverend Arthur Barnhardt—Dept. of Social Christian Relations
Reverend Layton Zinmer: Trinity Episcopal Church
Mr. Thomas Jenkins
List ten other persons who should be notified if you are arrested or harassed:
Mrs. Zelda Sarnoff
Mr and Mrs. Cary DeVan
Mr. Henry Sams—Her uncle!!!
Mr. John Larberg
Mr. Leroy McCo…
Mr. Sidney Repplier
Mrs. Luelle Hubbard
Mr. Robert Sautore
Please number your choices of the work you would like to do in Mississippi
1. Community Centers
2. Freedom Schools
Describe briefly your qualifications (training and/or experience for your first choice): Explains past work experience
Check the skills you have:
Journalism, Art, Music, and Research
Check the subjects which you could teach:
Remedial reading and writing, English, and Negro History
I can drive a car—receiving license now
Work Office Machinery—Yes
I have a driver’s license from the state of—Pennsylvania…possibly
Do you have a car you could use during your time in Mississippi? Possibly
I will be able to work in Mississippi from Early August until no less than a month possibly longer
I will be able to be self-supporting (roughly $150)—Yes
From 1964 until 1965, Geraldine worked with public school principals in Mississippi helping students re-admit into school. She also assisted in setting up special work-study student courses through Tougaloo college and also assisted in locating students to fulfill these roles. Her other work during this time included community organizing and voter registration. This information I found in Geraldine’s resume on page four out of nine (wow!) found below.
Geraldine was an incredible selfless woman and I cannot wait to further discover who she was and the legacy she left.
Until the next post my friends.
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