338 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI Block led the SNCC charge in Greenwood. A native of Cleveland, Block had attended Mississippi Valley State College in Itta Bena before the university’s conservative administration dismissed him for putting his activism above his schooling. Throughout his time in Greenwood, Block encountered numerous beatings and jailings and impressed local people and other activists with his tenacity. North of Greenwood in Sunflower County, SNCC activist and native Mississippian Charles McLaurin began a voter registration project. McLaurin faced similar obstacles as Block. One Sunflower County resident, a sharecropper named Fannie Lou Hamer, was evicted when her landlord learned of her voter registration efforts and attendance at SNCC meetings. Fiery, plainspoken, and eloquent, Hamer told stories of being a Mississippi sharecropper and enduring the hardships that resulted from white-only rule. No one person embodied the pain, resilience, and hopefulness of African American Deltans more than Fannie Lou Hamer. By 1963, the COFO was in a serious bind. The number of registered African American voters in 1963 was only marginally greater than those recorded in 1960. The federal government continued to be reluctant to protect African American voting rights in the South. By 1963, financial support for voter registration projects dried up and placed the COFO in a state of desperation. Frustrations mounted. Needing to bolster its campaign in Mississippi and generate public support for federal intervention, the COFO decided to launch the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964. The coalition issued a call for summer volunteers, especially college students, to venture to Mississippi and engage in a variety of civil rights—related activities. The corps of mostly young middle-to upper-class Northern white volunteers primarily focused on helping local residents register to vote. Although some members of the COFO expressed concerns about bringing in so many white college students to the Delta and changing the nature of civil rights activism on the ground, COFO leaders such as Moses and Henry saw Freedom Summer as the key to breaking through in Mississippi. Change Comes Compared with the region at the end of World War II, the Mississippi Delta of the late 1960s appeared to be a different world. The legislative victories of the 1960s helped change certain portions of the racial landscape in the Delta. The legal walls of segregation had breached under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. African American voting signaled the rise of a new political era. Following the passage of the Voting Rights Act, African Americans began to vote in large MORGAN FREEMAN Possessing one of most recognizable voices in the entertainment industry, Academy Award winning actor and Charleston native Morgan Freeman has narrated, produced, or appeared in well over 100 productions over a career that spans nearly five decades. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1937, Freeman spent much of his childhood in the Mississippi Delta, a place he returned to live in the 1990s. After a stint in the United States Air Force in the late 1950s, he moved to Los Angeles to attend college and begin his acting career. During his long and celebrated career, Mr. Freeman has won accolades for roles ranging from a prison inmate to the great Nelson Mandela. He has been the voice of Frederick Douglass and even played the role of God. Freeman has dazzled audiences with roles as a chauffeur in the Academy Award winning film Driving Miss Daisy, as Sergeant Major John Rawlins in the Civil War film Glory, and as Bruce Wayne’s invaluable partner Lucius Fox in the recent Batman series. While well known for his iconic voice, his prolific career includes an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the acclaimed film Million Dollar Baby, as well as four additional Oscar nominations for brilliant performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus. Later in life, Freeman decided it was time to move home to his native Mississippi. He built a house near his hometown of Charleston and became heavily involved in the local community, where he has contributed to a number of causes and invested in new businesses, such as Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. Located on Delta Avenue, Ground Zero opened its doors in 2001 and has helped revitalize downtown Clarksdale and boost tourism in the Mississippi Delta. Aside from his financial support, Freeman is one of the most recognized and relentless ambassadors for his home state. When asked why he chooses Mississippi when he could live anywhere in the world, his response is always “because I can live anywhere.” PHOTO BY TIMOTHY IVY, COURTESY OF DELTA MAGAZINE