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.

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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering