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Sparking a New Era of Civil Rights Activism

IMAGE: College students from Ohio will be joining civil rights activists and leaders from around the country this week to mark the 50th anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer.
IMAGE: College students from Ohio will be joining civil rights activists and leaders from around the country this week to mark the 50th anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer.
June 23, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fifty years ago, young adults from Ohio journeyed to the South to advocate for equal voting rights, and this week dozens will travel the same path.

During the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, activists working to register voters faced harassment, arrests and violent attacks.

Three of them were murdered.

The events eventually helped to trigger the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

James Hayes, an organizer with the Ohio Student Association, says the lessons learned then still apply today.

"Young people are some of the most effective agents for change,” he stresses. “And we're hoping that this generation can spark a new era of civil rights activism.

“There's a lot of power in everyday people."

In 1964, volunteers from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, helped to organize Freedom Summer.

They targeted Mississippi because it had the lowest percentage of registered black voters in the country.

Students from Ohio are busing down to Jackson, Mississippi, today to join hundreds commemorating the legacy of 1964's Freedom Summer.

Hayes says they are working to bring equality for every American, and are focusing on education, juvenile and economic justice issues, as well as democracy and voting rights.

"We're trying to continue pushing the ball forward and protect some of the things that we won 50 years ago around voting rights and access to the polls,” he says. “Some of those things that we've won have been taken away in Ohio this past year and we want to begin a conversation about how do we strengthen our democracy."

Other Freedom Summer celebrations and events are being held in various states throughout the year, including the dedication of a memorial honoring Freedom Summer volunteers in Oxford in October.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH