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Another Account of the Second Freedom Summer

My Summer Vacation 1965
By Mary Swope Self-published, 2011, 127 pp
Available from the author at

A review by Jo Freeman

a primarily african american crowd stands behind barracades, in the foreground is a policemanThe summer of 1965 was an important one for the civil rights movement, but about the only event that is remembered is the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Believing that it would become law in June, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized a summer project called SCOPE.

Mary Swope was one of those who went South with SCOPE, and is only the third to write a book about it. She learned about SCOPE at San Francisco State College where she was finishing her M.A. in art. Her family had taught her that "if you see an injustice and have a chance to right it, you should," so she took a very unusual "summer vacation."

When she returned home she hastily typed up a rough account of her experiences, then put it away. Four decades later she polished the manuscript and published it herself, along with lots of photos she took at the time. The result is a fascinating look at the day-to-day work of these summer volunteers.

SCOPE brought between three and four hundred young people to work in six Southern states. They spent a lot of time canvassing to bring prospective voters to the county registrars, but the removal of the tests which restricted black registration didn't take effect until August 6, and only a few counties got federal examiners before the summer ended.

Arriving at the Atlanta Freedom House in July, Mary missed orientation and was not sent to a county project. For the first month she worked in the Atlanta office, keeping the books and putting out the only issue of the SCOPE newsletter. (A copy is at the back of the book). Her descriptions of life in the Freedom House and the people she met are very poignant.

SCOPE director Hosea Williams finally let her get out of the office. She went with other staff to Crawfordville, GA to assist at a march, and to Greensboro, AL to photograph more marches.

In Greensboro, county seat of Hale County in Alabama's black belt, local African-Americans were staging marches to the courthouse to protest the stiff literacy test which kept so many from registering to vote. By the time Mary arrived in late July, several locals had been beaten while marching and two black churches had been burned.

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