To mark the 50th anniversary of the dramatic events of “Freedom Summer” in Mississippi, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics will sponsor a panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to consider its breakthroughs and impact on American history.
Like all Overby Center events, the program is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Overby Auditorium on the University of Mississippi campus.
The “Freedom Summer” campaign mobilized several hundred students on college campuses across the nation in 1964 to come to Mississippi to work in the cause of civil rights. The volunteers lived in the homes of black Mississippians and were involved in voter registration and educational programs — projects that enraged most members of the state’s white political leadership at the time.
Many of the volunteers were white students from schools outside the South, and from the time of their arrival in Mississippi, the summer was filled with drama and controversy. Three young men disappeared in Neshoba County in June, prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to dispatch military units to lead a search while 200 FBI agents were sent to the state to investigate the case. In early August, the bodies of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were found buried in a rural area outside Philadelphia.
Other volunteers were threatened and assaulted during the summer, but their work coincided with the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To review and remember the tumultuous period, the Overby Center panel will feature:
— Roy DeBerry, who was a young activist in Holly Springs that summer who helped show the volunteers the dangerous “lay of the land” in his area. DeBerry is now involved with the Hill Country Project, collecting interviews with people who helped integrate schools during the civil rights movement.
— Susan Glisson, executive director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at UM. Glisson helped organize the “Philadelphia Coalition,” a group of Mississippians primarily based in Neshoba County who led a local effort to prosecute and convict those responsible for the murders.
The program will be moderated by Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie, who covered “Freedom Summer” in the Mississippi Delta as a young journalist at the Clarksdale Press Register.