The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Zwerling (Matthew) Freedom Summer Collection
Collection Number: M336
Dates: ca. 1963-1965
Volume: .50 cu.ft.
Matthew Zwerling was a 1964 graduate cum laude of the University of Rochester, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and had been accepted to the Stanford University College of Medicine when he chose to spend his summer working as a volunteer with the voter registration program in Mississippi.
The son of a prominent family with strong political ties, Matthew was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on April 15, 1944, to Dr. Israel and Florence Zwerling. His father was a Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in Bronx, New York, and the family lived in New York City.
In June 1964, Matthew drove from his home in New York to the volunteer training session at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, with Andrew Goodman, who was a neighbor and friend of the family. After attending the orientation, the two young men drove to Mississippi, where they reported to their respective Freedom Summer sites. Matthew was appointed to Clarksdale, while Andrew was assigned to Meridian. Sadly, this was their last meeting, as Andrew became one of three civil rights workers murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi shortly thereafter.
Despite the obvious danger, Matthew remained in Mississippi, extending his stay until the end of August. During these months, he was heavily involved in voter registration drives, and assisted in the planning of meetings and rallies to promote community participation. While Matthew worked in Mississippi, his family wrote letters and petitioned government officials to investigate the murders of Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, and to provide appropriate protection for civil rights workers in the state.
Although little is known of his life after Freedom Summer 1964, at this writing, Matthew is an attorney working in an appellate project in San Francisco, California. He is married to Holly Veldhuis, and they have one son, Michael.
This collection contains civil rights materials collected by Matthew Zwerling and his family from 1963 to 1965. The bulk of the material documents Matthew's activities as a Freedom Summer volunteer in Clarksdale, Mississippi during 1964.
Box one consists of three folders of personal materials: two folders of correspondence, and one folder of photographs. The correspondence folders contain Matthew's weekly letters to his parents, which were usually composed every Tuesday, and give brief details of Matthew's living conditions and his own interpretation of his work's progress. Also included are letters between Matthew's parents and government officials concerning the Goodman/Chaney/Schwerner murders and the overall safety of Freedom Summer volunteers. The folder of photographs includes what is believed to be the last photograph of Andrew Goodman, taken a few weeks prior to his death. The remainder of the folders in the box consist of flyers, pamphlets, articles, reports, and other materials that were collected by Matthew and his family during the Civil Rights Movement, including organizational materials from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).
Box two contains two folders of materials. The first folder is comprised of periodicals with articles devoted to civil rights issues. One of the periodicals is dedicated to Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner and the investigation of their deaths. The second folder includes various newspaper articles that document the Civil Rights Movement from 1963 to 1965.
This collection should be of value to researchers of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Movement in general.
Box and Folder List:
M336-1 Freedom Summer Training Session 1964
5 x 6 B&W 1964
Freedom Summer Training Session in Oxford, Ohio at Western College for Women, shortly before volunteers left for Mississippi. Andrew Goodman is seated in the third row, fourth from the right. Matthew Zwerling is in same row, third from the right (beside Goodman).
M336-2 Freedom Summer Office in Clarksdale
5 x 6 B&W 1964
This photograph is of a meeting at the Freedom Summer Office in Clarksdale, Mississippi in the summer of 1964. The man standing in the middle of the group with his back to the camera is believed to be Matthew Zwerling.
M336-3 Matthew Zwerling in Freedom Summer Office
5 x 6 B&W 1964
Matthew Zwerling is speaking from behind a podium in the Freedom Summer Office in Clarksdale, Mississippi in the summer of 1964.