Straw hat worn during the 1966 March Against Fear

  • Creator: Unidentified
  • Year: 1966
  • Location: Canton, Madison County, Mississippi (Place used)

Straw hat with a cloth band around the crown. The cloth band is multi-colored with blue and green stripes and the word [FREEDOM] written around it in white letters that have the background colors showing through.

The March Against Fear was a major 1966 demonstration in the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Activist James Meredith invited only individual black men to join him on June 5, 1966, intending to make a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, a distance of 220 miles, to counter the continuing racism in the Mississippi Delta after passage of federal civil rights legislation in the previous two years and to encourage African Americans in the state to register to vote. 

On the second day of his walk, June 6, 1966, Meredith was shot and wounded by James Aubrey Norvell, a white sniper, and was hospitalized for treatment. Major civil rights organizations rallied to the cause, vowing to carry on the march in Meredith’s name through the Mississippi Delta and to the state capital. The state committed to protecting the marchers. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) took part, with Deacons for Defense and Justice from Louisiana providing armed protection.They registered more than 4,000 African Americans for voting in counties along the way.

Finally, an estimated 15,000 mostly black marchers entered the capital of Jackson on June 26, making it the largest civil rights march in the history of the state. The march served as a catalyst for continued community organizing and political growth over the following years among African Americans in the state.

Smithsonian Institute / Wikipedia

Straw hat worn during the 1966 March Against Fear is available in the public domain via Creative Commons .

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of John T. Cumbler | Source: Smithsonian Learning Lab

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