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Sun, 04.26.1964

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is Formed

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*On this date in 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was formed.  Also referred to as the Freedom Democratic Party was an American political party created as a branch of the populist Freedom Democratic organization in the state of Mississippi during the 20th-century American Civil Rights Movement.

Blacks and whites organized it from Mississippi to challenge the established power of the Mississippi Democratic Party, which at the time allowed participation only by whites when Blacks made up 40% of the state population. Though the MFDP failed to unseat the regulars at the convention, they did succeed in publicizing the violence and injustice by which the white power structure governed Mississippi and disenfranchised Black citizens.

Starting in 1961, S.N.C.C. and C.O.F.O. had waged campaigns to register Black voters.  In June 1963, Blacks attempted to cast votes in the Mississippi primary election but were prevented from doing so. This contest to determine Democratic candidates were essentially the only competitive race, as the state was a one-party jurisdiction. Unable to vote in the official election, an alternative "Freedom Ballot" for an election to take place at the same time as the scheduled November voting.

With this election seen as a protest action to dramatize the denial of their constitutional voting rights, close to 80,000 people cast freedom ballots for an integrated slate of candidates.  In response, Fannie Lou HamerElla Baker, and Bob Moses founded the MFDP. As a result, they encountered violent opposition, including activists being intimidated by the church, home, and business burnings and bombings, beatings, and arrests of Blacks. 

The dramatic elements of the MFDP and its convention challenge eventually helped gain congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The MFDP actions resulted in the national party adopting a new policy: its credentials committee banned seating delegations chosen through racial discrimination.  The MFDP continued as an alternate for several years as African Americans began registering and voting in the regular political system.

Many people associated with it continued to press to implement civil rights in Mississippi. After the Voting Rights Act passage, the number of registered Black voters in Mississippi grew dramatically. The regular party stopped discriminating against Blacks and agreed to conform to the Democratic Party rules guaranteeing fair participation. Eventually, the MFDP merged into the regular party, and many MFDP activists became party leaders. The FDP has only one active chapter in Holmes County.  

After the MFDP was disbanded on June 21, 1968, many formed a new party, the Loyal Democrats of Mississippi. In 1968, they were successful at the DNC in being seated as the only delegation from Mississippi. Several of these delegates were members of the MFDP.  Activists, including John Buffington and Rudy A. Shields, both S. N. C. C. field workers in Clay County and Copiah County, challenged the white Mississippi power structure economically and electorally. On 24 January 1970, the office of the Clay County Community Development Organization was fire-bombed.

The next day, dynamite exploded the Clay County Courthouse. Despite a finding of not guilty, John Thomas, Jr. was assassinated several months later, in broad daylight. 

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