Freedom Summer

Produced for the PBS series American Experience, this potent documentary re-creates an America most of us are lucky never to have experienced: the apartheid government of the state of Mississippi, circa 1964. “Crack Mississippi and you crack the whole south” went the logic at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which invited young people from around the country to spend that summer registering black Mississippians to vote. The volunteers who appear onscreen aren’t young anymore, but they still recall vividly the climate of terror that prevailed back then, not least when three of their colleagues disappeared one night in June and were found dead six weeks later. Everyone remembers that horrific crime (partly because of the fictionalized Mississippi Burning), yet writer-director Stanley Nelson, to his credit, devotes more screen time to a less notorious, more important subject: the boldly confrontational tactic of sending a shadow delegation to the Democratic National Convention that August to challenge the legitimacy of the state’s chosen delegates.