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Letters from Mississippi — 60th anniversary update


In 2002, Zephyr Press published our first edition of Letters from Mississippi, which brought a riveting chronicle of Freedom Summer back into print after thirty years. In 2014, our expanded 50th anniversary edition came out and is still in print. Now in 2024, in honor of the 60th anniversary, we are pleased to present a digital version of the book, along with this webpage that provides further background, updated notes on the contributors, and relevant links for this anniversary year.


What’s in the book:


During the summer of 1964, a presidential election year, SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) sent some 1,000 volunteers into Mississippi to expand Black voter registration in the state, to organize a legally constituted "Freedom Democratic Party" that would challenge the whites-only Mississippi Democratic party, to establish "freedom schools" which taught reading and math to Black children, and to open community centers where individuals could obtain legal and medical assistance.

Letters from Mississippi chronicles the summer through personal letters written by some of the volunteers to friends and family up north. Just days after the first contingent arrived, fellow workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, disappeared, and their bodies weren’t found until nearly two months later. Volunteers write of setting up schools only to see them bombed or burned down; canvassing citizens too frightened to register lest they lose their jobs; and sheriffs’ departments that regularly jailed the workers and turned a blind eye when they were beaten.


Zephyr’s 50th anniversary edition retains the original introduction by Julian Bond and preface by editor Elizabeth Martínez, and updates the explanatory background notes and biographies of volunteers from that summer. It includes more than 40 pages of poetry written by students in the Freedom Schools, with a prefatory note by Langston Hughes, as well as numerous photographs. Our 60th anniversary digital edition contains everything in the print book, but with updated notes and bios of the volunteers.


Elizabeth Martínez (1925-2021) was a Chicana writer, activist and teacher, whose work focused on racism, multiculturalism, women’s struggles and other social movements. In the 1960s and 70s, she worked in the Black civil rights movement and the Chicano movement. She co-founded the Institute for MultiRacial Justice to help build alliances between communities of color. Martínez was the author of six books and numerous articles.

Letters from Mississippi

  • Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer
    Edited by Elizabeth Martínez
    ISBN: 978-1-938890-02-4 (paper)
    5½ x 8¼
    400 pages


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