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Alumni Success

Author, alumnae association to receive 2024 Freedom Summer of ’64 Award

Carol Anderson ’81 M.A. ’82 and Western College Alumnae Association both to be honored this year

Freedom Summer memorial on Miami University's Western campus
Alumni Success

Author, alumnae association to receive 2024 Freedom Summer of ’64 Award

Miami University’s Freedom Summer of ’64 Award will have two recipients in 2024. 

Carol Anderson ’81 M.A. ’82 and the Western College Alumnae Association will receive the honor, given annually to champions of civil rights and social justice.

“The award is given each year to a distinguished leader and/or group that has inspired the nation to advance civil rights and social justice,” said Cristina Alcalde, vice president, Office of Transformational and Inclusive Excellence. “For 2024, we are thrilled to have a group and a distinguished leader as recipients of the Freedom Summer of ’64 Award.”

Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson '81 M.A. '82

It was shortly after her first book was published that Anderson, an author, educator, and historian, realized her work was resonating with the right people.

It wasn’t necessarily when she was contacted by Amnesty International, the international human rights organization. Nor was it when the Ford Foundation, which advances human welfare, reached out.

It was when Anderson received a call from a gentleman from Georgia – part of the “village who helped raise me” – that she realized the impact “Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955” was having, both in academia and beyond.

“You’re telling our story. That’s what we were up against,” Anderson recalled from the conversation.

The Freedom Summer of ’64 Award is named for the site at Western College for Women, now Miami’s Western campus, where 800 young Americans trained to register Black voters in the south.

The Western College Alumnae Association (WCAA) will hold its final reunion June 6-9, commemorating 50 years since Western College closed its doors and its campus became part of Miami. Going forward, Western’s alumnae will be part of the Miami University Alumni Association.

The WCAA will receive its Freedom Summer of ’64 Award during its final celebration, Forever Western!, held June 6-9 in Oxford.

“The Western College Alumnae Association represents a progressive institution where diversity, international perspectives, interdisciplinary endeavors, and social justice seamlessly converged,” Alcalde said. “It has, in partnership with Miami, worked to weave Western's legacy into the foundation of Miami University, to the benefit of countless students and, more broadly, of society. Its impact has included seminars, scholarships, professorships, and so much more.”

Anderson will be honored in Oxford on Sept. 20 as part of the “Reimagining the Academy: Coalition-Building in a Divided World” conference, a joint effort between Miami, Kent State, and Bowling Green State Universities.

Anderson was the keynote speaker at last year’s inaugural “Reimagining the Academy” at Kent State.

“It will be wonderful to welcome her back,” Alcalde said. “Dr. Anderson’s focus on justice, global rights, and voting rights are an inspiration to many.”

Currently the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of African American Studies at Emory University, Anderson’s works include “Bourgeois Radicals, The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1969” and “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide,” a New York Times bestseller that was also the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism winner.

Along with several awards for her writing, Anderson has been elected into the Society of American Historians, named a W.E.B. Du Bois Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and selected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2023, Anderson earned the Ella Baker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation.

Anderson knew she loved both history and teaching, but it wasn’t until her constitutional law class at Miami that a professional path came into focus.

Alan Engel taught the class, and when Anderson raised a dissenting view to a case being discussed, Engel peered over his glasses and asked to see Anderson after class. Anderson’s mind raced. Would she have to drop the class? Would that mean losing full-time status as a student?

Engel instead raised a simple question: Have you ever thought about graduate school?

“I didn’t know how to get there,” Anderson said. “He walked me through the process. I have my Ph.D. now because of professor Alan Engel.”

The first Freedom Summer of ’64 Award was given in 2018 to U.S. Representative John Lewis. Past recipients include the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins WC ’74, Joe Madison, Wayne ’58 and Teresa Embry ’60, Reginald Hudlin, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Wil Haygood ’76.

Nominations are sought each year for the award.

“This award is so important because those students were fighting for democracy in 1964,” Anderson said. “They were fighting for a democracy that was inclusive. They were fighting for a democracy that was closer to the vision of, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.’ To be in that lineage is an honor. That’s why the work on voter rights. That’s why the work on racial inequality. That’s why the work on human rights.”