The project came to be known as Freedom Summer

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

In 1964, students from across the country, Charles Duhigg explains (in The Power of Habit), applied for something called the “Mississippi Summer Project”:

It was a ten-week program devoted to registering black voters in the South. The project came to be known as Freedom Summer, and many who applied were aware it would be dangerous.


Each applicant was asked to list their memberships in student and political organizations and at least ten people they wanted kept informed of their summer activities, so McAdam took these lists and used them to chart each applicant’s social network. By comparing memberships in clubs, he was able to determine which applicants had friends who also applied for Freedom Summer.


The students who participated in Freedom Summer were enmeshed in the types of communities where both their close friends and their casual acquaintances expected them to get on the bus.


When McAdam looked at applicants with religious orientations — students who cited a “Christian duty to help those in need” as their motivation for applying, for instance, he found mixed levels of participation. However, among those applicants who mentioned a religious orientation and belonged to a religious organization, McAdam found that every single one made the trip to Mississippi.


  1. Kirk says:

    Really not sure what the point of this one is supposed to be…

    Although, it does highlight a couple of things–One of which is “Don’t listen to what they say, look at what they do…”. Lots of people are going to report high-minded and nice-sounding things when asked. Far fewer are actually going to walk their talk.

    As a friend of mine who has extensive time dealing with confrontational situations put it to me, “Watch their hands… Ignore their mouths; hands tell truths, mouths tell lies…”.

    The other thing it highlights is the not-surprising insight that people who are motivated enough to join an organization espousing their stated beliefs are a lot more likely to actually follow through and act on those stated beliefs–Along with the reinforcing nature of hanging around with like-minded people.

    Overall, mostly a restating of obvious things that should come as no surprise to any observant adult.

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