February 23, 2018  

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Reenactment March to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

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Images of Freedom Summer volunteers were captured by famed civil rights movement photographer Herbert Randall. (From the Herbert Randall collection)

The Center for Black Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi will kick off its events honoring the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer with a Freedom Day reenactment march in historic downtown Hattiesburg Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 10 a.m.

The march will begin at the intersection of Seventh and Mobile Streets, across from Trinity Baptist Church, and end at the Forrest County Courthouse. Marchers will contribute to the collective call for the city of Hattiesburg to erect a monument honoring the efforts of local civil rights veterans.

Organized by Southern Miss students in the “Remembering Now, ’64” group, this event will serve as a testament to the courageous volunteers of Freedom Summer who took risks to secure the civil liberties of others, said Dr. Sherita Johnson, director of the university’s Center for Black Studies.

“The ‘Freedom Day’ reenactment is a fitting start to the memorial events we have planned for the next six months,” Johnson said. Those events include the Freedom Summer Dialogues February - May (first Tuesdays) from 11:30 - 1 p.m. at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center, and the "Freedom Summer 1964-2014" conference June 19-21 in the Thad Cochran Center (map).

Speakers at the reenactment march will include Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Dr. Anthony Harris, a former Freedom School student. In addition, three students from the Hattiesburg Public School District will read their prize-winning essays about remembering the importance of the Civil Rights Movement.

Shane Hand, a Southern Miss doctoral student in history from Birmingham, Ala. is a member of “Remembering Now, ’64.”  He hopes the conversation about Freedom Summer will continue after the event, and that a monument will be placed on the front lawn of the Forrest County Courthouse to honor those who marched for freedom 50 years ago.

“The local fight for civil rights in Hattiesburg was a long struggle, and Freedom Day is an important event in this fight for both its public nature and its location at the courthouse,” Hand said. “This march began half a century ago, and these civil rights veterans made Hattiesburg a better, safer city. We don’t need to forget that, and monuments are for remembering.”

Sponsors for the Freedom Summer 50th anniversary events are the Southern Miss Center for Black Studies and College of Arts and Letters, the city of Hattiesburg, the Hattiesburg Historic Downtown Association and Eureka School Freedom Summer Museum.

For more information, call 601.266.4068 or 601.266.6241 or e-mail summer64hattiesburg@gmail.com.