The purpose of the Freedom Summer was to get more African Americans in Mississippi registered to vote. The project also had the secondary purpose of setting up various community programs to help African Americans in the state. The program, which took place in 1964, was met with vigorous and often violent resistance from whites in the state.
In 1964, African Americans had the legal right to vote in Mississippi but did not really have the ability to do so. They had had the right to vote ever since Reconstruction, but they had been deprived of that right for decades. Southern whites had prevented blacks from voting through a number of means such as the imposition of literacy tests that prevented illiterate blacks from voting and which could often be manipulated to prevent even literate blacks from voting. Because of this, African Americans in Mississippi and other Southern states lacked political power. The organizers of the Freedom Summer hoped to reverse this by getting blacks to be able to vote. It was mainly for this purpose that they organized the Freedom Summer program.