Obituary: Sally Belfrage

JESSICA MITFORD is right to say (obituary, 16 March) that Sally Belfrage's Freedom Summer is the one book of the many on the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964 to have the 'authentic ring of an enduring classic', writes Professor Tony Badger.

It was rightly, albeit all-too-belatedly, republished by the University of Virginia Press in paperback in 1990. Sally wrote a new, stylish, eloquent introduction in which she addressed the issues of food, sex and violence to which she had given short shrift in the original text. Sex and violence in the Summer Project have much attracted scholars since 1964: Sally placed the dietary deficiencies of black Mississippians in a global context.

Last April she came to Cambridge to join American and British scholars talking to final-year history students studying the civil- rights movement. She had never spoken on a British campus about her time in Mississippi; she professed to hate talking and to doubt her qualifications to talk alongside the academics. But, of course, she stole the show. The audience was engrossed as she recaptured the spirit of innocence, optimism and gut-wrenching fear that grabbed the young idealists who had gone south in 1964 and starkly described the reality of life for black Mississippians. As one student plaintively asked her, 'Why don't young people do that sort of thing nowadays?'

Sally admitted that she was 'pretty riled up' by the time she spoke. Academics, she thought 'don't get it and never will . . . It has to do with passion. What on earth do they really think it was about?' As for research students, 'I've decided that, when I'm in charge, personality tests will be required for PhD candidates in certain subjects.'

There were two things she made clear she was going to do. She had never been back to Mississippi since the summer of 1964. At the colloquium she pointed out that volunteers had completely failed to make any meaningful contact with white Mississippians. A visiting professor for the University of Arkansas, who as a white 19-year-old from Mississippi had gone to Washington to testify in support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, recalled that she had sought out the northern volunteers but had been greeted with complete hostility. At the end of the day, she and Sally got together to plan a trip to Mississippi to see how things had changed and to introduce Sally to some of those whites she had not met 30 years before.

Sally was already planning to be in New York in November 1994 for the 90th birthday of her much-loved family friend Alger Hiss.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style