Freedom Summer: 50 years later

Freedom Summer

MPS students prepare for a Freedom Summer Pilgrimage. (Photo by Karen Slattery, Milwaukee Neighborhood News).


At this time fifty years ago, civil rights activists were in the midst of the Freedom Summer Project, an effort to integrate the segregated political system of Mississippi at that time.

The effort is regarded today as an impactful part of the Civil Rights Movement mostly because of the strength of its argument and the “extraordinary violence” directed at the volunteers and local African-Americans.

The Department of Public Instruction has developed a Freedom Summer teacher resource page, which explains, “four civil rights workers were killed, at least three Mississippi African-Americans were killed for their support of the work, 80 civil rights workers were beaten, 1,062 people were arrested, 37 churches and the homes and businesses of at least 30 African-Americans were bombed or burned.”

Although the Freedom Summer Project itself took place over four weeks in June and July of 1964, repercussions continued long afterward. A helpful timeline is available from the Wisconsin Historical Society. The society has also recently released Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader, which highlights a collection of important Civil Rights documents brought to the society’s headquarters in Wisconsin while the struggle was still in progress, by a small number of University of Wisconsin-Madison students.

A group of Milwaukee Public School students took to the road this summer to experience the history of Freedom Summer firsthand. The Freedom Summer Pilgrimage was a weeklong trip to Memphis, Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery and Jackson, to retrace the events of the summer of 1964. The pilgrimage was co-organized by Arts @ Large, a non-profit organization that connects arts to academics through meaningful arts experiences for Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students.

The MPS students who participated in the Freedom Summer Pilgrimage are working with a professional videographer to create a short film of this once-in-a-lifetime experience which will document the trip, record student reflections, and feature exclusive interviews with civil rights leaders from the 1960s. The film and other student artwork will be curated into an exhibition and celebrated at the Arts @ Large youth art gallery, 908 S. 5th St., Milwaukee, to coincide with the July 25, 2014, Milwaukee city-wide Gallery Night and Day and will run through October 1, 2014. In partnership with UW-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Public Schools, middle/high school students also will partner with university students to host a series of summer workshops that engage the community in creative dialogue around social justice-based issues.

Read more about the Freedom Summer Pilgrimage in the article below from Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service:

MPS students to experience the history of Freedom Summer firsthand | Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service