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Civil Rights Leaders are Preparing to Commemorate Freedom Summer 50 years Later

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 10 Dec 2013 07:21pm | comments

Civil Rights Leaders from across the country are preparing to convene in Jackson this summer. 50 years ago many of them canvassed Mississippi to put an end to the system of segregation and inequality.  MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports the group is being recognized for its accomplishments.    

This June the City of Jackson will pay homage to thousands of Civil Rights Veterans like, Frank Smith, founding director of the African American Civil War Museum in Washington D.C. During the summer of 1964 Smith lived in Jackson and served as a volunteer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which was known for confronting segregation by use of protest.

"And it was amazing what happened here. It got the country to see for the first time how brutal this was and really I think America rededicated itself to this notion of freedom and democracy. They didn't believe what they were seeing before their very eyes. And once we got that before the country it became a sea change in terms of the way America looked at us. Congress starts to pass in '65 the voting rights act. They passed all these laws that actually changed the country."

That same summer, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were shot at close range by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Their murders sparked national outrage and a massive investigation by the FBI. The bodies of the three Civil Rights Workers were found 44 days later in an earthen dam in rural Neshoba County.   Bob Moses, who was the Director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee says their brutal deaths forced the country to take a close look at itself.  

"In a way that it couldn't when Medgar was assassinated, when Herbert Lee and Louis Allen were assassinated but the prospect of hundreds and hundreds of  young students from across the country coming in and facing that danger forced the country to look at itself."

Since the summer of 1964 Mississippi has made tremendous racial progress on all fronts. Still, Civil Rights Veteran and Canton resident Flonzie Brown Wright says there is still a need for vigilance.

"We cannot allow the clock to be rolled back on things that happened years ago that we still have to fight today such as ways and means to keep try and keep the voter suppressed. But we're going to face them headon as we have always done and do our best to perpetuate change."

The events surrounding Freedom Summer are scheduled for June 25th through the 29th in Jackson.  Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.





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