University of Iowa Receives Archives of a Veteran of Freedom Summer
Filed in African-American History on December 9, 2015
The University of Iowa has received the donation of the archives of Eric Morton, a civil right activist from Detroit who died in Oakland, California, on October 7. Morton was a U.S. Army veteran and an official of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who participated in Freedom Summer in Mississippi, a 1964 effort to register Black voters. During this period Morton became friends with a group of students from the University of Iowa who were participating in the voter registration drive.
On the night of July 15, 1964, Morton and 19-year old Steve Smith, a White student at the University of Iowa, were stopped by law enforcement authorities on a Mississippi highway. Their vehicle contained voting rights materials that the men were planning to distribute throughout the state. The two civil rights workers were beaten on the side of the road and then detained for two days in jail.
Morton went on to become a political operative working for Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and Michigan Congressman John Conyers. He later was a union organizer and after obtaining a doctorate in philosophy, taught at Fort Valley State University in Georgia.
Morton never set foot in the state of Iowa, but his life-long friendships with the students from the University of Iowa prompted him to donate his archives to the university.