BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Center on Representative Government at Indiana University launched its new Freedom Summer 1964 interactive app today, March 30, in honor of the formal adoption of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 151 years ago.
The 15th amendment granted Black men the right to vote, but decades of discriminatory practices prevented Black citizens, particularly those in the South, from exercising this right. It would take nearly another century until these discriminatory practices were outlawed with the passing of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Freedom Summer 1964 is a free digital learning tool for educators and students that explores key events surrounding the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1964 Mississippi voter registration drive and the eventual passage of civil rights legislation. In the app, players predict the outcomes of both civil and congressional actions, and discover how the events are intertwined and impact each other.
The Freedom Summer 1964 app is named after a massive volunteer campaign, in June 1964, in which volunteers confronted racist violence in an attempt to register thousands of Black voters in Mississippi. The national attention that the campaign brought to voter discrimination in the U.S. helped convince Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"The center continues to create innovative learning tools for the classroom that focus on times in our nation's history that challenge our democratic principles," said former U.S. Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, who founded the Center on Representative Government in 1999 and served as its director until 2015. "Freedom Summer 1964's launch on the anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed that the right to vote could not be limited based on race, color or previous condition of servitude, theoretically granted Black men the right to vote. It was not enough, and 100 years later, Freedom Summer forced this injustice back into the public eye.
"This free interactive ends with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sadly, in 2021 we still have not achieved the goals of 1870 or 1965 as voter suppression continues, especially among Black people and other people of color."
The center partnered with Half Full Nelson, an IU-alumnus-owned design and game development company based in Indianapolis. Half Full Nelson also worked with the center to create the CitizIN app, a signature project of the IU Bicentennial that teaches Indiana history, and the award-winning Engaging Congress app, which teaches the basic tenets of government.
The center is part of the IU Office of Government Relations and Economic Engagement, led by Vice President Bill Stephan.
"Freedom Summer 1964 covers an important time in our nation's history and is timely especially in light of events from the past year," Stephan said. "We believe this is an excellent teaching resource for educators and hope that it also fosters discussion and leads to deeper insights and understanding."
The center partnered with 20 agencies and organizations across the U.S. to select the primary sources used in the Freedom Summer 1964 app. In addition, faculty and administrators from a number of school corporations provided input on the content.
Organizations that assisted with the project include the Library of Congress, National Archives, White House Archives, Dirksen Congressional Center, Herb Block Foundation, LBJ Presidential Library, U.S. Department of State and University of Southern Mississippi Libraries' Digital Collections.
Freedom Summer 1964 is formatted for all types of computers and mobile devices, including Chromebooks, and can be found on the center's website or in any app store for download.
Hamilton founded the Center on Representative Government in 1999 with a mission to help prepare the next generation of citizens by working with educators to create programs that inform, inspire and motivate students and to encourage civic participation to seek solutions to the many challenges that confront our communities today.