With participation in the regular Mississippi Democratic Party blocked by segregationists, COFO built on the success of the Freedom Ballot by formally establishing the MFDP in April 1964 as a non-discriminatory, non-exclusionary rival to the regular party organization. The MFDP hoped to replace the regulars as the officially-recognized Democratic Party organization in Mississippi by winning the Mississippi seats at the 1964 Democratic National Convention for a slate of delegates elected by disenfranchised black Mississippians and white sympathizers.
Building the MFDP was a major thrust of the Freedom Summer project. After it proved to be impossible to register black voters against the opposition of state officials, Freedom Summer volunteers switched to building the MFDP using a simple, alternate, process of signing up party supporters that did not require blacks to openly defy whites by trying to register at the courthouse or take a complex and unfair literacy test.
In the face of unrelenting violence and economic retaliation, the MFDP held local caucuses, county assemblies, and a state-wide convention(as prescribed by Democratic Party rules) to elect 68 delegates (including 4 whites) to the national Democratic Party Convention scheduled for Atlantic City, New Jersey in August.