Freedom Summer of '64 Award

Freedom Summer MemorialThe Freedom Summer of ’64 Award was created to honor champions of civil rights and social justice. It is given in remembrance and recognition of the site at the Western College for Women (now part of Miami University), where 800 young Americans trained to register black voters in the south.

"This award honors the legacy of the civil rights movement, but is also a new call for students, faculty, staff and citizens to reconnect with civic service and civil rights at a time when participation, and standing for one's belief in their fellow humans is more important than ever," said Gregory Crawford, president of Miami University.

"It is important to keep the Freedom Summer spirit alive, to make known its history and to demonstrate that it still matches our values," said Ron Scott, associate vice president for diversity and inclusion at Miami. "Presenting this award is a public way to reflect on the best and show the path to others."

2020

Joe Madison

Joe Madison has spent a lifetime advocating for the right to vote, from the NAACP to his worldwide platform on SiriusXM radio. Madison received the award June 23, when he delivered the keynote address at the 10th annual National Civil Rights Conference on Miami's Western campus.

"The Joe Madison Show," which airs weekday mornings on SiriusXM's Urban View channel 126, calls attention to social injustice around the world, including human rights abuses in southern Sudan.

In 2015, Madison made history by broadcasting live from Cuba, the first American radio host to do so in more than 50 years. That same year he set a Guinness World Record for the longest on-air broadcast, 52 hours, which raised more than $250,000 for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

A native of Dayton, Madison was named one of Talker magazine's 100 Most Important Talk Radio Hosts nine times, often in the top 10, and has interviewed world leaders including President Barack Obama.

Before becoming a broadcaster in 1980, Madison was the youngest executive director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. He eventually was appointed national political director and a member of the organization's board of directors.

Madison earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Washington University (St. Louis) in 1971, the first in his family to earn a college degree. He was an all-conference running back on the football team, a baritone soloist in the university choir and a disc jockey at the campus radio station. He has continued to support Washington University as a member of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society and has generously supported scholarships, athletics and the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement.

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins graduated from Western College for Women in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in social science and education. From 1998 to 2002, she served as both the 15th national president of the League of Women Voters of the United States—the first African American to hold the role—and chair of the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

During her leadership of the League of Women Voters, Jefferson-Jenkins promoted its strength as a grassroots organization and called for a focus on local elections, as well as increasing the number of voters who participate in all elections. In the early days of the internet, she promoted the Wired for Democracy project to increase participation and advocate for campaign finance reform.

As chair of the league's Voter Education Fund, Jefferson-Jenkins promoted democracy-building efforts in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the Netherlands, Israel and a group of African countries. She is the author of The Road to Black Suffrage and One Man, One Vote: The History of the African-American Vote in the United States. Her new book, The Untold Story of Women of Color in the League of Women Voters, was released in March 2020 in honor of the organization's centennial celebration.

After graduating from Western College, Jefferson-Jenkins started her career as a public school teacher and administrator. She earned a master’s degree in education from John Carroll University, an educational specialist degree from Kent State University and a doctoral degree from Cleveland State University.

2019

Vice President for Institutional DIversity and Inclusion, Ron Scott, posing with members of the Mt. Zion Church, holding their awardMt. Zion United Methodist Church

In June 2019, Miami presented the award to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Each year, the Mt. Zion congregation recognizes the June 21 anniversary of the disappearance and murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner—three civil rights workers who traveled from Oxford, Ohio, to investigate an arson at the historic church. Their bodies were found six weeks later, victims of the Ku Klux Klan.

Speaking during the 2019 memorial service, Ronald Scott, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Miami, said what Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner wanted for us was to never forget and join the struggle.

"The struggle continues with the next generation," he said. "It continues because of what you, the members of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, have done for the last 55 years. You have kept the memory and the dream alive. You have, without any hesitation, without any reward, simply in the name of honor and justice and freedom and doing what is right, continued a legacy. You have taught us and showed all of us we should not forget. And, when we come together, we can move toward that dream."

The church's memorial is a preconference activity for the National Civil Rights Conference in June.

2018

Representative John Lewis proudly displays his award.U.S. Representative John Lewis

On March 19, 2018, civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia received the inaugural Freedom Summer of ’64 Award. 

In 1964, John Lewis, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 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).

Lewis began his civil rights activism with the 1961 Freedom Rides, challenging segregated interstate bus terminals across the South. Though peacefully protesting, he was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police. From 1963 to 1966, Lewis was chairman of SNCC, which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing civic student activism, including sit-ins and other activities.

Before working in more formal voting rights agencies, Lewis endured 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries in his justice-seeking endeavors. He was a co-leader, on March 7, 1965, of more than 600 peaceful, orderly protestors marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, intending to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday."

Lewis was active in numerous other civil rights efforts and activities over the years. He was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and elected to Congress in 1986, serving as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since then.

Miami University presented the Freedom Summer of '64 Award to Lewis in a ceremony March 19, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Students, alumni and guests recognized Rep. Lewis for his lifetime of civil rights accomplishments.

The presentation and acceptance speech follow:

For more information on Freedom Summer and Miami's commemoration of this historic event, see Celebrating Freedom.