Semester of Graduation

Spring 2024


Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History

Document Type



In recent years, historians of the American Civil Rights Movement have developed a long-term grassroots analysis that extends before and beyond the 1960s while incorporating local leaders and a diversity of tactics and goals. The Mississippi Movement represents a significant segment of this historiography, and yet the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party has received little sustained attention. Although the party is mentioned in many standard scholarly works, it appears in a flash at the 1964 Democratic National Convention where it stages a seating challenge and disappears almost immediately from the scene. This thesis reframes the Freedom Democratic Party (FDP)’s work by examining three key eras of the party’s life: its founding phase in 1964, its challenge phase in 1964 – 1965, and its evolutionary phase in 1965 – 1967. The founding phase spans from April to August of 1964, starting with the party’s founding and ending with the ratification of its state party platform. The challenge phase, which extends from August 1964 to September 1965, begins with the party’s 1964 Democratic National Convention challenge and ends with the conclusion of the party’s 1965 Congressional challenge. The party’s evolutionary phase from September 1965 to November 1967 begins with the FDP’s evolution in tactics and turn back to Mississippi after the Congressional challenge and culminates in its first major electoral success, the election of the first Black Mississippi legislator since Reconstruction. The unifying theme of each era is the FDP’s continued focus on achieving its 1964 promise to end racism in Mississippi, while also addressing the “poverty, disease and illiteracy confronting American society” through any means necessary.[1] By reframing key eras of the party’s history, this thesis reshapes that history in whole.

[1] “Platform and Principles of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party,” n.d., MFDP -Organizational Papers, Platform Statements, 1964-1966, undated (MFDP Records 1962-1971; Archives Main Stacks, Mss 586, Box 1, Folder 1), Freedom Summer Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society, 1.



Committee Chair

Dr. Catherine Jacquet

Available for download on Friday, April 04, 2031