Margaret Walker Center
College of Liberal Arts
Jackson State University
Ayer Hall
1400 J.R. Lynch Street
P.O. Box 17008
Jackson, MS 39217

Phone: 601-979-3935
Fax: 601-979-5929

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Margaret Walker Center
Feasibility Study



Margaret Walker and a “Hot Summer” in Mississippi


Grades: 9-12
Author: Vija L. Lee, Jackson, Mississippi



Learning from past mistakes can prevent someone from repeating those mistakes. By reading Margaret Walker’s personal journals, students can see where she grapples with the mistakes in her life. At the same time,they can gain a better understanding of the social injustices faced andsacrifices made by many Americans during the civil rights movement.

Students can compare and contrast various readings about the movement while exploring literary terms such as tone, mood, and atmosphere. Mississippi History Now is a great resource to find scholarly articles, free to the public, on the African-American experience in Mississippi.


Poster boards and markers for timeline presentations
Select article(s) from Mississippi History Now or other sources on the civil rights movement:

Curtis Austin
On Violence and Nonviolence: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi

Dernoral Davis
Medgar Evers and the Origin of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi

Dernoral Davis
When Youth Protest: The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, 1955-1970

Neil McMillen
Street Theater and the Collapse of Jim Crow

Kay Mills
Fannie Lou Hamer: Civil Rights Activist


The purpose of this lesson is to educate students about the past and prepare them to become concerned and active citizens in their community by studying the historical experience of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.

Students will:

  1. Gain knowledge about the civil rights movement in Mississippi and “Freedom Summer” of 1964 by exploring Margaret Walker’s journal entries and publications in Mississippi History Now or other suitable sources;
  2. Develop critical thinking by analyzing tone, mood, and atmosphere through research and reading assignments about events in Mississippi in 1964; and
  3. Express their opinions and reactions through writing assignments, discussions, and timelines about the importance of social movements, organizations, and activists.



  1. Teachers should have their classes do some background reading on the civil rights movement. Mississippi History Now is a great resource to find scholarly articles, free to the public, on the African-American experience in Mississippi.
  2. Write the phrase “Freedom Summer” on the board. Ask the students what they know about “Freedom Summer” and what the term evokes for them concretely and emotionally.
  3. Next write the term “Hot Summer” on the board (Journal 72, page 76, June 1964). Ask the students what they infer about its meaning and what it evokes for them.
  4. Ask students to define the following terms: tone, mood, and atmosphere. Discuss each term in relation to the phrases “Freedom Summer” and “Hot Summer.” Potential questions include:


Do you think “hot summer” refers to the weather or the events taking place in Mississippi?

Is there a direct relationship between the weather in Mississipp during the two days that Walker describes and evens in Mississippi in the 1960s?

  1. Read aloud Margaret Walker’s Journal 72, page 76, June 1964. Be sure to discuss the assassination of Medgar Evers (See Curtis Austin’s article.) and the “demonstrations and protest of Mississippi Negroes.”
  2. Be sure to explain Margaret Walker’s background and her ties to Mississippi.
  3. Distribute the following chart on tone, mood, and atmosphere. Tell students to complete only the first column labeled class session.   







Table 3


  1. For homework, assign each student a different organization, event, or person to research and to be prepared to discuss for the next class session. Research suggestions include:



  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

  • Council of Federated Organizations (COFO)

  • Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP)

  • KKK

  • Medgar Evers

  • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

  • Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman

  • Fannie Lou Hamer



  1. Teachers should take the following three quotes from Margaret Walker’s journals, make copies, and randomly distribute them amongst the students.

Journal 72, page 60 (May 1964) Going home to Mississippi now really makes me feel sad, burdened and sad. What is to happen to my people this summer in Mississippi? If the Civil Rights Bill passes then some of the violence may be dampened, if it does not pass all of us shudder to think of the consequences. Regardless of anything we shudder to think of what will happen in Mississippi this summer.

Journal 90, page 119 (April 1972) Black America stands today at the crossroads of destiny for the future of all our people in the world. It is not a time of joyous freedom but a crucial time of unmitigated tyranny—Not a time of tranquility but a stormy time of senseless war and killing—There is no lull or mercy in the oppressor’s brutality—Starvation and suffering exist in the midst of affluence and waste—Death and destruction control all the nations and we fight against evil and injustice.

Journal 90, page 120 (April 1972) What is our hope for Black people? How can we talk about life tomorrow for our children unless we dare do something to shape that life today? For there is no question but that worldwide societal revolution is a fact of our times.

  1. Instruct students to think about their assigned quote and write a well-written paragraph or two about the quote and how it relates to the research conducted for today’s class.
  2. Re-read aloud the Journal 72, page 76, June 1964, in order to jog student memory from the last class.
  3. Ask a few students to share their paragraphs.
  4. Distribute articles from Mississippi History Now or other comparable sources on the civil rights movement.
  5. Divide students into groups and assign them to read and summarize these articles for the class.
  6. Have students take out the chart on tone, mood, and atmosphere and fill in “Class Session 2.”
  7. Have students briefly write if their opinions on the “mood” of the civil rights movement have changed since reading Margaret Walker’s journal entry. Why or why not?



  1. Teachers should ask students to write which term—“Freedom Summer” or Margaret Walker’s “Hot Summer”—best describes the civil rights movement. They should reference to articles, journals, and class discussions.
  2. Ask for a few students to share their writings.
  3. Handout Margaret Walker’s Journal 72, page 79, June 1964, and read it aloud.
  4. Discuss how personal accounts from someone living in Mississippi add to the tone, mood, and atmosphere of events occurring in Mississippi at the time.
  5. For homework, students should research events during the civil rights movement in Mississippi between 1960 and 1965. Students should create a timeline depicting each event and be sure to include the title of the event, the exact dates, and a brief description.
  6. For one event on the timeline, each student should find an individual to interview about what people, events, and organizations had a major impact in setting the tone, mood, and atmosphere in Mississippi during the civil rights movement.
  7. For the final project, students should present their timelines and their findings.



The teacher should decide how to create incentives and opportunities for the students to write. Although teachers may wish to develop a grading rubric for this lesson, they should be wary of giving poor grades that might deter students from writing on their own.