Freedom Summer Remembered
Interview with Walter Kaufmann
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/05/2014
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20434
Finkel interviews retired community college teacher Walter Kaufmann about his experiences in the Freedom Summer project and teaching in the Freedom Schools.
For example, it was a local joke in the Black community that one knew you were there when the pavement stopped and the roads became pitted and dusty. Or when you wanted to mail a letter and couldn't find a mailbox. The sheriff and his deputy would speed down the road spraying dust on people, laughing while forcing them into the ditch. It was a game they would play.
You'd go into a gas station or grocery store, and there would be pictures of civil rights workers, or a list of our license plates tacked on the wall. I would get phone calls from city officials or the sheriff: "Is this Walter Kaufmann? Are you replacing that Jew that used to live there? Well, we're having a beer party. Would you all like to come on over? Aren't you the guy teaching nigger history there? Its very unfortunate what happened to those three fellows. We wouldn't anything to happen to you all now.
Every couple days or so I'd get calls like this. I lived in the Black community. It wasn't safe to leave. There was one other white volunteer there, Alan Schiffman.
Sometimes we'd go up to Memphis or down to New Orleans. Neshoba was kind of like a Mississippi within Mississippi; when you got out of there you breathed a little easier, and it was a lot less threatening when you crossed into Louisiana or Tennessee. It was very much the center of backwardness and intense racism, so I'm sure it has to be better today.