STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – It was 50 years ago that students and volunteers from across the nation came to Mississippi to work for the Freedom Summer Project. That historic summer marked the height of the Civil Rights Movement and this week, Mississippi State University is commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Project.
Voter registration, fair wages, affordable housing, and adequate education. The Freedom Summer Project of 1964 was created to help African Americans address those issues and improve their quality of life. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee gathered volunteers and student activists from around the country and headed to Mississippi, changing America forever.
“The lesson of the Civil Rights Movement was this: if people get together and stay together mostly they’ll lose, until they win and that’s what happened in Mississippi,” says Larry Rubin, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee Organizer.
Mississippi State University’s African American Studies Department is commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project with a 3-day conference. Attendees will hear from volunteers and student activists who put their lives on the line for African Americans to have a voice in the political system.
“Voter registration was a very important thing. We wanted to increase the number of Blacks that were registered to vote so that Blacks could have a greater impact on electing representatives of their choosing,” says Hollis Watkins, a SNCC Organizer.
Organizers say remembering Freedom Summer is vital to maintaining the accomplishments of the Project. Finding new ways to teach the next generation about the Civil Rights movement is key to moving forward.
“The use of story based resources has a particular impact on the learner because it’s a message that comes from the heart. It’s not just somebody saying “here on this day, somebody did this”. So I think we have to advocate for the teaching of a full deep history in our schools,” says Author Susan Follet, who wrote Fog Machine based on the Freedom Summer Project.
The Conference will conclude on Tuesday with a dinner banquet and a keynote address by Susan Follett, author of the Fog Machiine, a historical novel based on the Freedom Summer Project.
Some other noted speakers at the event were Co-director of the Freedom Summer Project, David Dennis and former Mississippi Governor William Winter.