The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Historical Manuscripts Home
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject


Collection Title: Dahl (Kathleen) Freedom Summer Collection

Collection Number: M357

Dates: 1963 - 2003

Volume: 1.35 cu. ft.

Materials in this collection were donated by Kathleen Dahl in 2001.

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Even in the most hostile of environments
Change is possible

-Kathleen Dahl, 1994

Dr. Kathleen [Kathy] Dahl was born on April 14, 1937, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the second child of Victor Dahl, a Studebaker dealer, and his wife Aileen Dahl. Kathy spent her childhood in the city of her birth and eventually moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to attend nursing school at The University of Michigan. Kathy was not active in political organizations at that time but after receiving her BS in Nursing in 1959 she decided she wanted to become more involved in civil rights. She moved to California and enrolled in The University of California at Berkeley where she became a member of Friends of SNCC [pronounced "snick"], a support organization for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

SNCC was begun after a group of black university students refused to leave a Woolworth's lunch counter where they had been denied service. This sit-in initiated a wave of other sit-ins in college towns across the South. SNCC was created to coordinate these sit-ins, support their leaders, and publicize their activities.

In August 1961, SNCC went into Mississippi, under the leadership of Project Director Robert [Bob] Moses, to raise awareness of issues that affected black communities, such as voter registration. By the fall of 1963, SNCC had joined with CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference], NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] and other groups in forming a statewide organization, the Council of Federated Organizations [COFO]. Under the auspices of COFO, the Mississippi Summer Project, which became known as "Freedom Summer" was developed, and in the summer of 1964 volunteers from across the nation traveled to Mississippi to work.

Charles McDew [the chairman of SNCC in 1962] recruited Kathy Dahl at Berkeley to become involved in Friends of SNCC. After James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman (civil rights workers) were reported "missing" in Mississippi in 1964, she felt compelled to join the civil rights volunteers in the state. She received her BA in Humanities from The University of California in the spring of 1964, and in June began training for Freedom Summer in Memphis, Tennessee. However, by that time SNCC had too many white female volunteers, so Kathy eventually came to the project through her connection with The National Council of Churches.

Like many volunteers, she received funding from multiple donors. Kathy was partially funded by The Medical Committee for Human Rights [MCHR], The National Council of Churches, and was sponsored [adopted] by a woman from Oxford, Ohio, who sent her ten dollars a week. In addition, in support of her efforts, Kathy received money regularly from friends in Berkeley. She was assigned to Holly Springs, Mississippi, in Marshall County in the North Central Delta region, about an hour's ride from Memphis.

She traveled by bus to Holly Springs on July 4, 1964, with three other young people: Ruth Koenig, a folk singer named Gene Hunn, and a southern African-American civil rights worker. In 1964 Marshall County was inhabited by 28,000 people, of which 2/3 were African-American. Farming was the primary occupation and the principle crop was cotton. Much of the land was owned by white landowners and rented or sharecropped by black farmers.

Because of Kathy's skills as a nurse, Ivanhoe Donaldson [SNCC organizer] recommended that she register as a RN in Mississippi. He thought it would be wise to do so before the local residents realized she was a volunteer with Freedom Summer. As a result, Kathy became the first civil rights worker to get a RN in the state of Mississippi.

During Freedom Summer, Kathy, Ruth Koenig, and Harriet Tanzman were roommates on the third floor of Rust Hall at Rust College, an African-American Methodist College in Holly Springs. The Holly Springs project was very restrictive. For example, female volunteers were required to wear dresses. They were never allowed out in public except in pairs and never in mixed racial groups.

Kathy filled a number of roles during Freedom Summer including Freedom School teacher, cook, housekeeper, nurse, treasurer, secretary, house mom, and others. After the summer, when most of the volunteers left, she worked in community organization in the area of politics, and moved into a house in Holly Springs rented by the remaining staff. She was with the project for a total of six months.

After Freedom Summer, Kathy continued to correspond with many of the people in the project. One close associate of Kathy's was Rita Walker and her husband Sid [Bud] Walker. They were instrumental in much of the Holly Springs civil rights activity and managed the project after the summer of 1964. Because of their involvement and protests, Rita and Sid were forced out of the state around 1966. During their relocation they smuggled some of the records from the Holly Springs project out of Mississippi in two stuffed cotton sacks. On one visit to Rita and Sid in their new home in Aurora, Illinois, Kathy retrieved two boxes of the Holly Springs papers. She donated the boxes to the Black Studies department at Berkeley in 1975.

When Kathy left Holly Springs, she moved back to Milwaukee. In the spring of 1965, she married John Cummings Tappiener from Santa Barbara, California, whom she had met while they were both students at the University of California. When announcements of her wedding and involvement in Mississippi reached the Milwaukee papers, she and her family received threats and hate mail.

After visiting the project in Holly Springs on their return to California, both Kathy and John remained active in fund raising and publicity for Mississippi civil rights efforts. Kathy severed as chair of the East Bay Friends of SNCC in 1965.

In 1966 her first child, Aileen was born. Kathy, John, and their new baby spent a year in Brazil [1966-67], funded by a Ford Foundation grant to improve the School of Forestry at the Rural University at Vicosa. Kathy's second child, a daughter named Elizabeth, was born upon their return in 1968. Kathy and John divorced in 1973, and in 1974 she married Richard Rean. Her third child, Richard V. Rean, was born in 1975. Richard and Kathy divorced around 1978.

In June of 1979, Kathy received her MA in history from The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis but continued to work in nursing. In the early 1990s she was a nurse and the acting clinic manager of Hennepin County Medical Center's Psych Day Treatment Program in Minneapolis. She received her PhD in History in 1995 from The University of Minnesota. As of 2003, Kathleen Dahl resides in Minneapolis, where she works part time, collects books, and spends time with her grandchildren.


  • Dr. Kathleen Dahl

  • Kathleen Dahl Freedom Summer Collection

  • Ruth Koenig Papers

  • Larry Rubin Oral History

  • Internet Sources

Scope and Content:

The bulk of this collection consists of materials that document the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Summer in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Included is biographical information regarding Freedom Summer volunteers, photographs, correspondence, subject files, printed materials, and artifacts. For the researchers convenience the collection has been divided into seven series:

  • Series I: Biographical Information consists of biographical sketches of many of the Freedom Summer Volunteers that are featured in this collection.

  • Series II: Photographs hold over one hundred original photographs from 1964-1994, some photocopies and computer scans of photographs, and occasional brief commentaries. Some photos are of arrests, demonstrations, a bombed church, volunteers, and reunions.

  • Series III: Correspondence comprises letters sent to, and written by, Kathleen Dahl from June 23, 1964 to October 26, 1999. Of special interest is a thank you letter from Fannie Lou Hamer. Many letters are to Kathy after she left the Holly Springs project and contain information about the status of the project. There are some examples of hate mail she received because of her involvement.

  • Series IV: Personal Subject Files encompasses correspondence, documents, artifacts, artwork, reports, and writings from Holly Springs Volunteers and people related with the project.

  • Series V: Topical Subject Files contain a variety of materials such as: Freedom Summer reports, Kathy's Mississippi Nursing Certificate, audio and video recordings of interviews with Kathy and other volunteers, Kathy's Mississippi license plate covered in Mississippi red clay dirt, and Freedom Summer reunion materials.

  • Series VI: Printed Materials includes flyers, brochures, newspaper clippings, magazine clippings and artifacts. Several published articles written by Kathy are in this series, in addition to a collection of over fifty political buttons from the civil rights movement.

  • Series VII: Oversize Materials consists of items such a poster of Joan Baez, a 1967 sample election ballot for Marshall County, and news materials.

Other Finding Aids:

Photograph Log

Related Collections:

As a Freedom Summer volunteer, many of the Freedom Summer and Civil Rights collections are related to the Kathleen Dahl Collection. Archive collections that relate directly to Kathy and her work with the Medical Committee of Human Rights and as a volunteer with the Holly Springs project are:

M406 Civil Rights in the South Collection
M364 Davies (Jon G.) Freedom Summer Collection
AM03-25 Davis (Martha) Freedom Summer Memoir
M362 Koenig (Ruth) Papers
M375Martin (Josephine D.) Papers

Box and Folder List

Series I: Biographical Information
Box 1  
Folder 1 Biographical Information: Holly Springs Civil Rights Workers
Series II: Photographs
Folder 2 Photographs: Freedom Summer and Civil Rights Related (1964 - 1966)
Folder 3 Photographs: Computer Scans of Photos M357-43 Through M357-46, M357-48
Folder 4 Photo Album: Album Cover and Photocopies of Contents/Notes
Folder 5 Photographs: Freedom Summer and Civil Rights Related (1964-1975)
Folder 6 Photographs: Freedom Summer Reunion (1994)
Folder 7 Photocopy: Photograph of University of California Student March (ca 1960)
Folder 8 Photocopy: Photographs of Holly Springs Freedom Summer Volunteers
Series III: Correspondence
Folder 9 Correspondence: General (June 23, 1964 - December 29, 1964)
Folder 10 Correspondence: General (January 1965 - November 22, 1965)
Folder 11 Correspondence: Hate Mail (April 22, 1965 - April 26, 1965)
Folder 12 Correspondence: General (February 21, 1966 - December 11, 1966)
Folder 13 Correspondence: Brazil (April 27, 1967 - August 15, 1967)
Folder 14 Correspondence: General (March 14, 1967 - November 10,1968)
Folder 15 Correspondence: General (September 27, 1971 - November 1, 1979)
Folder 16 Correspondence: General (July 22, 1984 - October 26, 1999)
Folder 17 Correspondence: General (Undated)
Series IV: Personal Subject Files
Folder 18 Bogard, Annie (Rita Walker's Mother): Correspondence (February 27, 1967 - July 19, 1967)
Folder 19 Campbell , Beauty: Correspondence and Voter Registration Form (July 21, 1964/5 ? - December 29, 1965)
Folder 20 Cieciorka, Frank: Correspondence, Bench Warrant, and Artwork (August 21, 1964 - January 20, 1965)
Folder 21 Cobb, Charles: "Prospectus for Summer Freedom School Program (December 1963)
Folder 22 Dearborn, Bobbie (Cieciorka): Correspondence (ca January 1964)
Folder 23 Forman, James: Biographical Sketch (2003)
Folder 24 Lewis, John (Chairman of SNCC): Statement of Staff Meeting (February 1965)
Folder 25 McDew, Charles: Biographical Sketch (January 11, 1982)
Folder 26 Nichols, Maureen (Pretzel): Correspondence (1964 - July 8, 1968)
Folder 27 Nunnally, U. Z.: Correspondence (January 16, 1965 - March 19, 1965)
Folder 28 Opton, Ned: Correspondence and "Report on Visit to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind" ( August 19, 1964 - June 26, 1967)
Folder 29 Parker, Pamela (Chude Allen): Bio and Writings (1994)
Folder 30 Parker, Pamela (Chude Allen): Handbook "Free Space: A Perspective on the Small Group in Women's Liberation" (Copyright 1970)
Folder 32 Scales, Charlie: Correspondence and Auto Accident Records (August 1, 1964 - February 9, 1966)
Folder 33 Scales, Clara M.: Correspondence ( September 5, 1964 - February 21, 1966)
Box 2  
Folder 1 Walker, Rita: Writings (ca 1964)
Folder 2 Walker, Rita: Correspondence (January 27, 1965 - December 16, 1965)
Folder 3 Walker, Rita: Correspondence (January 19, 1966 - September 12, 1967)
Folder 4 Walker, Rita: Correspondence (January 7, 1968 - January 17, 1970)
Folder 5 Walker, Sid (Bud): Correspondence (April 26, 1966)
Folder 6 Young, Carl 'Imiola: Bio and "Essay on Mississippi : America 's Only Police State" (December 1964)
Series V: Topical Subject Files
Folder 7 Nursing Certificate: Kathleen Aileen Dahl (September 8, 1964)
Folder 8 Red Cross Home Nursing Textbook (copyright 1963)
Folder 9 License Plate: Marshall County , MS (1964)
Folder 10 Dahl, Kathleen: "End of the Summer Report" for the Medical Committee for Human Rights (1964)
Folder 11 Songs and Poetry (1964 - 1965)
Folder 12 Book: "The Pond" by Child Development Group of Mississippi (Copyright 1965)
Folder 13 Summer School Project (Summer 1965)
Folder 14 Rural Economic Opportunity Council (undated)
Folder 15 Anthony, Lillian: African-American History College Course (Spring 1971)
Folder 16 Minnesota Public Radio "Interview with Kathleen Dahl and Dean Zimmerman" (1994)
Folder 17 Videocassette: Channel 4 News Featuring Kathleen Dahl (1994)
Folder 18 Freedom Summer Reunion - East Coast Flushing , New York - Queens College (June 25, 1989)
Folder 19 Freedom Summer Reunion - West Coast Berkeley , California (June17, 1989)
Folder 20 Freedom Summer Reunion - Mississippi (1994)
Folder 21 CBS Sunday Morning "1994 Freedom Summer Reunion" ( July 3, 1994 )
Folder 22 Freedom Summer Reunion ( Rust College ) - Mississippi ( Sept. 18-21, 2003 )
Box 3  
Folder 1 1964 Holly Springs Freedom Summer Volunteer List (undated)
Folder 2 Booklet: "Turning Point - The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer" (Copyright 1994)
Folder 3 Carlton College Freedom School Volunteers - Biographical Sketch (Summer 1994)
Folder 4 Videocassette: "We Shall Overcome; A Stirring Tribute to This International Civil Rights Anthem" (1988)
Folder 5 Play: "Freedom Riders" (January 20-29, 1995)
Folder 6 Medgar Wiley Evers Cultural Arts and Social Research Institute and Tougaloo College Historical Sketch (undated)
Folder 7 The James E. Chaney Institute, Inc. (undated)
Folder 8 Farm Workers - The Delano Grape Strike (1965-1970)
Folder 9 Fair Housing (ca 1964)
Folder 10 New American Movement (1972-1973)
Folder 11 Peter Maurin Neighborhood House (1962)
Series VI: Printed Materials
Folder 12 Brochures and Flyers (1960s - 1994)
Folder 13 Magazine Clippings (1964-1997)
Folder 14 Newspaper Clippings and Newsletters (1964-2003)
Folder 15 Political Buttons (undated)
Series IV: Oversize Materials
Oversize Materials (In Mapcase)
Item 1 Baez, Joan: Poster (ca 1960s)
Item 2 Sample Marshall County Ballot (ca 1967)
Item 3 Newspaper: " Vicksburg Citizens Appeal" (August 22, 1964)
Item 4 Newsletter: "Scanner" Hennepin County Medical Center (August 1994)


Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
118 College Drive #5148   Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148