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Another Account of the Second Freedom Summer

She never got to march, arriving just in time to photograph an attempted march which was met by barricades and teargas. The movement responded by holding a vigil at the barricades which lasted for over two days. It ended when the city arrested almost five hundred demonstrators, including about 20 white SCOPE workers brought in from other counties. (Mostly students from the University of Illinois who were working in Greene County).

This was Mary's first arrest, and she devotes an entire chapter to life in the women's prison compound. If you want to know what it's like to be cooped up in overcrowded conditions with lots of unmet needs, read this chapter.

Mary wanted to stay in Greensboro, but Hosea wanted her back in the Atlanta office, so after first going to the SCLC convention in Birmingham she returned to the Freedom House.

Her next field trip was to Petersburg, Virginia, where once again she worked on marches. The literacy tests were gone by then, but other restrictions on voter registration still remained in all but those few counties which had federal examiners. This time the locals were protesting the fact that the registration office was open only one day a month, and at a time when most people were working.

By the time the summer was over, Mary was "bone tired" and ready to leave. Coping with the chaos of movement life and the frustrations of just getting people registered to vote had worn her down. We are fortunate that before returning to normal life, she took the time to put on paper her memories of her "summer vacation." It's a rich resource for those who want to know what it was like to be a civil rights worker in the South, even for a summer.

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©2011 Jo Freeman for

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