Celebrating Freedom

Celebrating Freedom

Freedom Summer, also known as the the Mississippi Summer Project, was a 1964 voter registration drive sponsored by civil rights organizations including the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Aimed at increasing black voter registration in Mississippi, the Freedom Summer workers included black Mississippians and hundreds of out-of-state, predominately white volunteers.

Though the SNCC agreed to recruit only one hundred white students for the project, a much larger number was ultimately recruited. Two one-week orientation sessions for the volunteers were held from June 14 to June 27 in Oxford, Ohio, on the campus of then-Western College for Women (now part of Miami University).

Freedom Summer Memorial

Freedom Summer Memorial Amphitheater

Tucked into one of the grassy hills composing Western Campus at Miami University there lies a magnificent stone monument commemorating the Freedom Summer of 1964.

Dedicated in 2000, it honors three civil rights workers — James Chaney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 20; and Michael Schwerner, 24 — who were murdered in Mississippi while registering black voters. The three were among 800 activists who trained on the then-Western College for Women campus in the summer of 1964 before heading south. At the memorial’s groundbreaking, Miami and NAACP officials said, "It’s important for young people to know the sacrifices of those who fought for a fairer, more just society." Three trees were planted near the memorial as living tributes to the young men.

Freedom Summer of '64 Award

Representative John Lewis and President Crawford gazing at Lewis's award displayed between them.

U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia received Miami's inaugural Freedom Summer of '64 Award, presented in Washington D.C. on March 19, 2018.

Rep. Lewis was honored for a lifetime of civil rights work, including his role as the young chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who, in 1964, encouraged college students around the U.S. to help register African-Americans in Mississippi to vote. Nearly 800 of those students trained for that work and for nonviolent resistance in Oxford, Ohio, on the campus of then-Western College for Women (now part of Miami University.)

View the presentation and acceptance speech

DID YOU KNOW? In Feb. 2018, Western College was declared a Freedom Station by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. 

Take a Look Back at Freedom Summer

Bob Moses speaking to an auditorium full of people

Freedom Summer organizer Bob Moses talks to volunteers at an orientation in Peabody Hall, Western College for Women, now part of Miami's Western campus (photo Ted Polumbaum, Newseum Collection).

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 Freedom Summer volunteers sitting on the lawn and sitting

Freedom Summer workers and volunteers gather to sing outside of Clawson Hall (photo by George R. Hoxie; courtesy of Smith Library of Regional History).

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Freedom Summer Trainees curled up on the ground practicing non-violent resistance

Volunteers practice non-violent resistance during Freedom Summer training at Western College for Women (photo by Ted Polumbaum, Newseum Collection).

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Civil rights activists holding hands and singing next to a bus

Singing "We Shall Overcome", this group of Freedom Summer volunteers begins its journey from Oxford, Ohio to Mississippi. Despite the dangers, more than 1,000 college students volunteered to canvass, teach and establish community centers (photo Ted Polumbaum, Newseum Collection).

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Understanding the Past, Building the Future: 50th Anniversary Conference

That fateful Freedom Summer of '64 became the catalyst for much progress and change in our nation. In 2014, Miami celebrated the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer with a University-wide, year-long event, "Celebrating Freedom: Understanding the Past, Building the Future." It provided an opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the efforts yet to come in the United States and globally to ensure the freedom and dignity of all people. The Celebration focused on issues and topics such as civil rights, immigration, voting rights, women’s rights, gay rights, freedom of speech, human rights, and others—all related to the basic right of freedom.

Miamian's hold hands and sing during the conference

The 50th Anniversary Freedom Summer Conference and Reunion was held October 11–14, 2014. Featuring several guest lecturers and panelists, scholars, students, and community members gathered to explore civil rights and celebrate Freedom Summer as a model for change and progress.

View photos

Miami Women's College lawn

Faces of Freedom Summer: The Photographs of Herbert Randall

This milestone anniversary exhibition commemorating the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Project features over 100 photos printed from the original negatives taken by photojournalist Herbert Randall. Exhibition features also include the documents distributed to trainees and a documentary about the photographer.

Visit Miami's digital archives to learn more »

John Swann portrait

When John Swann moved into Collins Hall in 1961, life changed drastically for the African-American freshman from West Virginia.

Featured in the Summer 2014 edition of Miamian, Swann reflects on his years as a colored-negro-black student on campus during the changing 1960s.