Biographical / Historical
In 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was established by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an alliance of four civil rights groups: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE); and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The purpose of the Freedom Summer was to develop a unified voter registration program in Mississippi to support the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) at the National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. Furthermore, COFO hoped to attract the government and nation's attention through the help of hundreds of predominately northern, white students.
Lasting from late June to mid-August 1964, the Freedom Summer Project was closely followed by the northern media, and grabbed the attention of the New Left. Ultimately, the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project established a black political presence in the state of Mississippi, as well as organized various programs including the Freedom Schools and Community Centers.
Ruth Koenig was a 23-year-old schoolteacher from Schenectady, New York, when she volunteered for the Mississippi Freedom Summer in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She stated that it was the 1963 Birmingham bombing which compelled her to participate in the Freedom Summer. During her three months in Mississippi, Koenig taught at the Freedom Schools, signed new members for the MFDP, and helped to organize voter registration drives. In 1966, Koenig returned to Mississippi to observe the changes she helped to generate through her participation in the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Since that time, she has worked predominately in the education field, and has continued to rally for human rights, as well as environmental and peace issues.