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Civil Rights activists in Mississippi plan 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 02 Aug 2013 05:18pm | comments

Civil-rights activists in Mississippi are preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer next year.  MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports.




In the summer of 1964, hundreds of civil rights workers from across America convened in Mississippi to put an end to the system of rigid segregation. During that time Hollis Watkins of Jackson was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize the event also known as "Freedom Summer. " Watkins says all of the volunteers coming into the state were told they should be prepared for at least 3 different things.


"Number one to be beaten, number two to go to jail and number three to be killed. Because we realized that all of those were possibilities. And that proved to be the case where murder took place.    


The main objective of the groups entering Mississippi that summer was to challenge the state's  practice of denying blacks  the right to vote. Flonzie Brown Wright of Canton compares many of the barriers then to what she sees happening today.


"Wow! 50 years later it's still some of the same. 50 years ago we had to fight the poll tax we had to fight the ugliness of the registrar’s office. Today voter ID, voter suppression. And so we still have many of those challenges today as long as we don't have elected officials who are sensitive to the needs of people."



While significant strides have been made in race relations. Dr Leslie McLemore, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Jackson State University says protecting voting rights remains a strong challenge.


"The recent supreme court ruling that essentially gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Voter  ID effort across the American South and other places in the country. All of these efforts that have been really major attempts to roll back the progress that we've made as a people."


The Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference will convene in Jackson June 25-29 to discuss how to continue the struggle towards justice for all. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.








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