The pivotal role of some Hattiesburg churches in the
Civil Rights Movement will be featured as part of the Courage
to Act: Freedom Summer in Mississippi series on Jan. 21 at
St. Paul United Methodist Church.
to Act series, which will also be presented June 24, is sponsored
by The University of Southern Mississippi Departments of History
and Speech Communication, the Fairchild Lecture Fund, the city of
Hattiesburg and Forrest County.
lecturers and former activists, the series explores the social and
individual forces that produced the Freedom Summer Movement in Mississippi
will examine how individuals and groups, disregarding prevailing
customs and ignoring life-threatening pressures, organized and promoted
events that led to the sustained attack on segregation in Mississippi.
scholar Dr. Enrique Rigsby of Texas A&M University will lecture
at 4 p.m. at St. Paul, located at 215 E. 5th St. in Hattiesburg.
Following a reception, former Freedom Summer activists will hold
a roundtable discussion with audience participation.
is an opportunity to meet the people involved and learn how it all
happened, said Dr. Charles Tardy, professor and chair of the
Southern Miss Department of Speech Communication.
you think of all the resistance to change, it still amazes me that
people had the courage and strength to overthrow the system. This
series is an attempt to figure out how they did that.
the 40th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the program will focus on
the role of local black citizens at the grassroots level, who launched
a defiant voter registration drive in January of 1964. It will also
trace the beginning of the Freedom Summer Movement to its origin
on Freedom Day, Jan. 22, 1964. On that historic occasion, thousands
of protestors marched in front of the Forrest County Courthouse
with pastors and civil rights activists from around the nation,
lobbying for black voting rights.
international media covered the events of Jan. 22, which were sparked
by local officials refusal to register black voters at the
Forrest County Courthouse. The picketing continued daily at least
until the Democratic National Convention in August of 64.
By that June,
student volunteers from around the nation had converged in Hattiesburg,
where they engaged in voter canvassing in the evenings and ran Freedom
Schools during the day. At the height of the movement, about 90
mostly white students were staying in the homes of Hattiesburgs
black citizens and working with local activists in these programs.
With nearly 700 students enrolled, Hattiesburgs Freedom School
was the largest of its kind in the state.
Schools taught black history to kids who werent getting that
kind of education in school, said Assistant Professor Curtis
Austin, co-director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural
Heritage at Southern Miss. These schools also taught black
people citizenship skills, how to be activists and how to protest
for peaceful change.
and success of Hattiesburgs six Freedom Schools surprised
some of the activists, who were anxious before they opened, said
Dr. Charles Bolton, chair of the Department of History at Southern
Miss. When they set these Freedom Schools up, they had no
idea how many would show up. About 600 showed up on the first day,
which was much greater than they had anticipated. All of a sudden,
they were concerned with not having enough books, Bolton said.
Conville, professor of speech communication at Southern Miss, said
the achievements of Freedom Summer created pressure to pass the
Voting Rights Act of 1965. Ultimately, the act made people
less afraid to go out and vote because it provided them with federal
protection, he said.
he hopes the Courage to Act series strikes a chord with
students who benefit today because of the activists sacrifices.
democracy, peaceful change comes through voting and education. Younger
students are always amazed by their sacrifices, and the more they
learn about them, the more they are able to participate in our democracy,
For more information
about the Courage to Act: Freedom Summer in Mississippi
series, contact Dr. Charles Bolton at (601) 266-4575 or Dr. Charles
Tardy at (601) 266-4271.