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50 years later, Freedom Summer lives on

By Kelly Higginson, Senior Staff Writer

For Miami University, 2014 is the year of freedom. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer at Miami University, and to commemorate the campaign launched in June 1964, there will be a Freedom Summer reunion Oct. 11-14.

Also known as the Mississippi Summer Project, the political campaign Freedom Summer was launched to register African-American voters in Mississippi as part of the Civil Rights Movement.

Professor Emeritus Rick Momeyer trained in Oxford during the movement and headed south to register black voters in Mississippi. After training and informing people of the movement, Momeyer set up freedom schools and community centers.

"I believe there is still much to learn from the Freedom Summer movement," Momeyer said in an article published in a Miami University press release.

According to Miami University news, there were an estimated 800 volunteers who went through training in 1964 at Western College for Women (now Miami's Western Campus) to help with the movement.

The reunion will start at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11, when the shuttle from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport will bring the members to The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The remainder of the reunion will be held throughout Oxford and on Western Campus, just as it was in 1964.

The first two days will be dedicated to the reunion, but on Monday the conferences will begin. Along with the numerous lectures, performances and guest speakers throughout the reunion, day two will showcase Miami journalism professor Kathy Conkwright's screening, "Training for Freedom: How Ordinary People in an Unusual Time & Unlikely Place Made Extraordinary History."

The screening is a working collaboration of Conkwright, Jacqueline Johnson and Miami's Media, Journalism and Film students, which they started last March of 2014. The screening will take place at the Oxford Community Center and will show the emotional story of the 1964 Freedom Summer orientation sessions that were held on Western College for Women.

"Students helped gather research and develop the project," she said. "And then we shot interviews with people from the 1964 campaign."

According to Conkwright, Western Campus looks exactly as it did in 1964 when the Freedom Summer campaign took place. The volunteers and Civil Rights leaders that took part in the movement were interviewed in the exact spots where they worked together for equality many decades ago.

"It was just such a monumental time and having these people come back to the sacred place where it all happened," Conkwright said. "It's been a huge privilege to meet and talk to these people."

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Jacqueline Johnson, the conference organizer and head activist of the Freedom Summer reunion, has been planning both the reunion and conference since early 2013.

"We really wanted to provide the two-day reunion instead of one day for all of the attendees to catch up on old times and celebrate 50 years," Johnson said.

According to Johnson, there are already 300 people registered online for the reunion.

"I think many students should register to come because there will be a mixture of documentaries, presentations, performances, music, theatre and overall great information from what happened on campus during 1964," Johnson said.