During the summer of 1964, the Western College campus in Oxford, Ohio served as the training ground for a remarkable undertaking: the coordinated and determinedly peaceful effort to register African-Americans to vote in the hostile and heavily segregated state of Mississippi. Most of the volunteers were white college students who felt a personal calling to support the civil rights of beleaguered African-Americans. A few were themselves African-Americans. Three young men – two white, one black – left Oxford for Mississippi and were never seen alive again.
But there was more to that summer than those three tragic deaths. There were many acts of individual courage, many acts of connection and enlightenment, and many lives, both of Mississippi residents and of volunteers that were forever changed by the experience of that summer. Next weekend about 50 of those volunteers will return to Oxford to remember that summer and to share the impact on their lives during a special reunion and 50th anniversary conference.
On Friday, Oct. 10, three of them will share their stories with us in a panel presentation, “Telling Our Stories: Building the Freedom Summer Legacy,” beginning at 4:15 p.m. This panel serves as the Second Annual Special Collections Lecture, highlighting the Freedom Summer Archive in the Western College Memorial Archives.
Our three guests – Carole Gross Colca, Mark Levy and Roland Duerksen – have all donated personal materials to the Freedom Summer Archive. During the panel presentation they’ll talk about the impact of Freedom Summer on their lives, as well as why they felt it was important to preserve and share the documents of that experience.
The fall exhibit in the Special Collections gallery showcases materials they have donated. “Stories of Freedom Summer from the Western College Memorial Archives” will be on view before and after the panel presentation and through the remainder of the semester, until December 12.
Please join us on October 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. for a fascinating presentation, followed by a reception and an opportunity to view the exhibit and interact with our speakers. The event is free and open to the public.
Assistant Dean for Technical Services & Special Collections