This weekend The Center for African American Studies and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life have put together an extraordinary celebration and commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the “freedom summer” of 1964. That year student activists from across the country headed south to work with African Americans in the struggle for civil rights. Others supported that work by organizing protests or doing important logistical tasks, often outside the spotlight. Alliances across religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender and race were key components of that heady time. There were tensions, to be sure, but there was also compassionate solidarity to “bend the arc of history” toward justice.
Wesleyan students, faculty and staff, along with other Middletown residents, were very much engaged in those efforts. Churches played a crucial role here as they did in the south. And music was everywhere linked to this work. So it’s fitting that our freedom summer celebration begins Friday with a “rolling concert” at 6 p.m. (100 Cross Street) featuring choirs from AME Zion Church, Middletown High School and Wesleyan. Dar Williams ’89 and Kim and Reggie Harris will be featured Friday evening, along with a children’s choir. The symposium gets underway Saturday afternoon.
In 1964 many in the Wesleyan community joined with a movement to work for the principles like the right to vote and equal protection under the law. These principles are under enormous pressure once again. As we celebrate 1964, may we be inspired to take up today’s challenges.
Thanks to Lois Brown, Rob Rosenthal and everyone who helped make this event happen.
Freedom Summer Schedule:
Friday, Sept. 12
Location: Dance Department – 100 Cross Street
Performers: Unity Choir, Cross Street AME Zion Church
Location: Olin Library Steps
Performers: Middletown High School Choir and Wesleyan Singers
Location: Memorial Chapel
Performers: Children’s Choir of Cross Street AME Zion Church; Dar Williams ‘89, Kim and
Saturday, Sept. 13
Freedom Summer Symposium
Fayerweather Beckham Hall – 45 Wyllys Avenue
1:30 p.m. Panel: “Go South, Young Wes Men”: Freedom Summer 1964 and Wesleyan Student Activism
Panelists: Ron Young ’86, John Suter ’65, Stephen Oleskey ’65
Moderator: Ashraf Rushdy, African American Studies Program and English, Wesleyan
3 p.m. Panel: Unwavering Courage: Civil Rights Activists of Freedom Summer
Panelists: Penny Patch, Muriel Tillinghast and Gwendolyn Simmons
Moderator: Anna Wasescha, President, Middlesex Community College
4:30 p.m. Keynote Lecture by Margaret Burnham, Professor of Law and Founder of Civil Rights And Restorative Justice Institute at Northeastern University
Friday, Sept. 12: 3-5
Saturday, Sept. 13: 9-12
Wesleyan Special Collections and Archives: “Civil Rights Activism and Wesleyan” An exhibit featuring historic Civil Rights-era Wesleyan materials, documents, and photographs.