Exchange Matters / June 8, 2014

The Legacy of Freedom Summer

In Brief: Since the inception of the Global Ties network, our members have given international exchange participants a real and unfiltered view of the United States, including the struggles and challenges the country grappled with during the Civil Rights era and, in many ways, continues to grapple with today. In that spirit, the International Visitors Center of Jackson in Mississippi and our members in the South continue to connect international visitors with their communities and the rich history and resources of the civil rights movement. This reflection comes on the occasion of this year’s 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer.

As we head into the 50th celebration of Freedom Summer excitement fills the air!

In 1964, thousands of activists from around the world came to Mississippi for what is now known as Freedom Summer.

It continues to amaze me that 50 years have come and gone. As a child of the Movement, with a bird’s eye view from the knee of my grandfather, I can still hear the songs of Freedom and the messages of Hope and new beginnings; they are my motivation to this day. I am in awe of what the Veterans of Civil Rights were able to do under the circumstances, with some making the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives for freedom…my freedom.

Freedom Summer was a paradigm shift

This June marks the 50th anniversary of the historically significant Mississippi Summer Project, more commonly known as Freedom Summer. Native Mississippians and volunteers from across the nation and around the world converged on Mississippi’s hallowed grounds to register voters, promote workers’ rights, and gain access to healthcare and public education for all Mississippians. These groups of young people worked and lived in communities across the state. They registered as many voters as possible and set up Freedom Schools. Freedom Summer volunteers also hosted training sessions and workshops in three areas: youth organizing, organizing and building community, and political power. Freedom Summer was a paradigm shift, and placed a spotlight on the struggle against segregation and other forms of race and gender-based disenfranchisement. These efforts were centered in Jackson and led by The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella civil rights group that coordinated the efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Their work serves as an inspiration…we can help disenfranchised groups across the globe benefit from their courage and exemplary leadership

Their work serves as an inspiration to countless Americans, and through international exchange programs like the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), we can help disenfranchised groups across the globe benefit from their courage and exemplary leadership.

We are extending an invitation to visit Mississippi during this year of activities, events, lectures, workshops, trainings, and learning opportunities highlighting the best practices of the civil rights movement!

By Sara Williams, Jackson, Mississippi