Wesleyan students, faculty, staff and community members participated in a “Freedom Summer” commemoration Sept. 12-13 on campus.
The summer of 1964 saw thousands of young people — many from colleges and universities in the North – mobilize to register voters, educate citizens, and support other civil rights work in the Jim Crow South. What came to be known as “Freedom Summer” is credited with ending the isolation of states where racial repression and discrimination was largely ignored by news media and politicians, despite the the landmark Civil Rights Act passed that July.
Wesleyan students joined the struggle. “Five Wesmen to Fight Voter Discrimination in Mississippi,” said a front-page headline in The Argus. That May, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had given the baccalaureate sermon, and other civil rights leaders had visited campus.
The commemoration not only celebrated Wesleyan’s participation, but the unique moment Freedom Summer occupies in American history.
The Freedom Summer event included two events, a Rolling Concert on Sept. 12 and a Freedom Summer Symposium on Sept. 13. Pictured is Rob Rosenthal, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life and Rev. Moses Harvill from the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church in Middletown.
During the concert, the Unity Choir, Middletown High School Choir, the Children’s Choir of Cross Street AME Zion Church; Kim and Reggie Harris, Wesleyan students and Dar Williams ’89 (pictured) performed at three locations.
All commemoration events and concerts were open to the public.
Freedom Summer, also known as the Mississippi Summer Project, initially focused on increasing voter registration in Mississippi. The Freedom Summer, comprised of black Mississippi residents and more than 1,000 out-of-state, predominately white volunteers, faced constant abuse and harassment from Mississippi’s white population. (Photos by Jack Gorlin ’18)