Mississippi Freedom Movement
Freedom Now! Archives of Brown-Tougaloo Exchange Are on the Web
Students at Brown University and Tougaloo College, working with faculty, archivists and information technology specialists on both campuses, have produced a Web-based archive of the Mississippi Freedom Movement and the Brown-Tougaloo Cooperative Exchange.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In 1964, against a backdrop of racist violence and murder, Brown University and Tougaloo College, of Jackson, Miss., forged an extraordinary institutional relationship that has lasted more than four decades.
Now, after three years of work with faculty, archivists and information technology specialists on both campuses, students at Brown and Tougaloo have produced Web-based archive that documents the Mississippi Freedom Movement as well as the Brown-Tougaloo Cooperative Exchange.
“We learned again how and why history matters,” said Susan Smulyan, associate professor American civilization at Brown and a faculty adviser to the project, “and about how things that may have happened decades ago are never really gone.”
The project began as an attempt by Brown and Tougaloo students to document the Freedom Summer, drawing on materials at Tougaloo College, which was an important center of coordination and support for the Freedom Movement. “But research begets more research,” Smulyan said, and the students soon expanded the project to include the history of what was officially called the Brown-Tougaloo Cooperative Exchange. A dozen Brown and Tougaloo students worked on the project during nearly three years.
There are photographs of Bobby Kennedy, Ralph Bunche, Myrlie Evers, Charles Evers and others visiting the Tougaloo campus, of Medgar Evers’ funeral, of marches, of Brown faculty in Tougaloo classrooms, of Tougaloo faculty leading seminars. There are hand-written letters expressing almost indescribable mortal fear, including one written on prison toilet paper. There are student essays, letters to the New York Times, sound recordings, a senior thesis on the fight by African American women for significant roles in the civil rights movement, and many other materials.
Other materials in the Web archive chronicle the sometimes awkward and difficult relationship between two dramatically different institutions. “The politics of this relationship were very tricky from the outset,” said James Campbell, professor of Africana studies and chair of Brown’s steering committee on slavery and justice. “Relations between white liberals and black activists at the time became increasingly fraught.”
There were issues of paternalism, anger, cultural conflict – Brown students cringed, Smulyan said, when they learned that Brown’s first effort was to improve the spoken English of Tougaloo students – but the relationship survived and still provides important benefits to both schools.
“During the 1960s, several elite universities established relationships with historically black colleges and universities; only the Brown-Tougaloo relationship survives,” said Ernest M. Limbo, associate professor of history and dean of the Social Science Division at Tougaloo. “The production of this Web site, using the archival resources of Tougaloo College’s Civil Rights Collection, demonstrates that the Brown-Tougaloo relationship is not merely surviving but flourishing in ways that benefit both institutions, their students, and everyone who studies the Civil Rights Movement.”