Witnessing the recent election of Jon Ossoff to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, I saw a moment of recompense and redemption for Black and Jewish Americans in the South, and the U.S. as a whole. I was reminded of the 1964 Freedom Summer project in Mississippi, where a coalition of Black students and white students participated in a massive voter-registration campaign organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The weeks-long effort was met with more violence than success, including the murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney: two Jewish men and one Black man. Days later, the national reckoning over their deaths continued as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. In a potent reminder of Freedom Summer, Jon Ossoff—the son of Jewish activists who was mentored by the late Congressman John Lewis—was successful in his campaign because of the concerted efforts and tireless work of Black organizers and activists who turned out the vote and brought national attention to Georgia’s 2021 Senate runoff election. It was the unfinished business of Freedom Summer coming full circle. This is the new South.
King is the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change