Digital Humanities
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Mapping Relationships in the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

In this project, I attempted to build on a database I made of organizers, organizations, and campaigns that were part of the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. The information in the original database was found Akinyele Umoja’s in We Will Shoot Back, a history focused on the role of armed resistance and armed self-defense in the Mississippi Freedom Struggle.[1] This text is seminal in combating the narrative of civil rights and black power ideology which organizations like COFO, and CORE as carrying out most of the work before the 1970s through non-violence alone and paramilitary groups emerging on the fringe just when the movement was fizzling out.[2] Instead, We Will Shoot Back, present a history of black resistance and organizing in Mississippi that centers the people and communities that used armed-defense and armed resistance to create safe havens throughout the state well before members of SNCC and CORE arrived in the early 1960s. Umoja writes:

[A]rmed resistance was critical to the efficacy of the southern freedom struggle and the dismantling of segregation and Black disenfranchisement. Intimidation by White supremacists was intended to bring fear to the Black population and its allies and sympathizers in the White community. To overcome the legal system of apartheid, Black people had to overcome fear to present a significant challenge to White domination. Armed self-defense had been a major tool of survival in allowing some Black southern communities to maintain their integrity and existence in the face of White supremacist terror […] We Will Shoot Back argues that without armed resistance, primarily organized by local people, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists would not have been able to organize in Mississippi.[3]

My goal is to use DH methods to explore the interconnections in membership between civil rights groups, paramilitary groups, and black liberation organizations in Mississippi between 1960 and 1970. My aim is to develop a deeper understanding of the roles each played in the movement.  To do this, I attempted to visualize membership across major organizations involved in the struggle into a network.

Read the full report here.

See an interactive version of this network here.



[1] Akinyele Omowale Umoja, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (NYU Press, 2013).

[2] “Civil Rights Movement: An Overview | Scholastic,” accessed December 17, 2017,; “Civil Rights Movement – Black History,”, accessed December 17, 2017,; “American Civil Rights Movement | Definition, Events, History, & Facts,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed December 17, 2017, A particularly good example of this appears in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry for “American Civil Rights Movement”: “Although the passage in 1964 and 1965 of major civil rights legislation was victorious for the movement, by then militant black activists had begun to see their struggle as a freedom or liberation movement not just seeking civil rights reforms but instead confronting the enduring economic, political, and cultural consequences of past racial oppression.”

[3] Umoja, We Will Shoot Back.

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