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Conference marks Freedom Summer anniversary

Freedom Dreams - Featured

Civil rights activists, scholars and community organizers will gather on campus next week for a national conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a landmark event in the civil rights movement.

A UIC professor who was there as an 18-year-old volunteer will join a roundtable discussion at the opening session.

The conference May 28 to 30, “Freedom Dreams, Freedom Now!,” will consider the legacy of Freedom Summer and its implications for contemporary social and racial justice work and scholarship.

Freedom Summer of 1964 worked to increase voter registration among disenfranchised African Americans in Mississippi and bring national attention to the oppression they experienced.

The state’s black residents and more than 1,000 out-of-state volunteers were challenged, often violently, by local residents and authorities. The actions and backlash spurred Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which had stalled earlier.

The conference will feature workshops, lectures, panels, performances, photo and art displays, and film screenings, including the Chicago premiere of award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s new PBS documentary, “Freedom Summer.”

Speakers include NAACP chair emeritus Julian Bond, activist Angela Davis, scholar Robin D.G. Kelley, Amnesty International executive director Steven Hawkins and historian John Dittmer.

Peter Orris, professor and chief of occupational and environmental medicine, traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to assist with voter registration and short wave radio installation as an 18-year-old volunteer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Council of Federated Organizations. He and other volunteers will talking about their experiences Wednesday evening.

The event is hosted by UIC’s Social Justice Initiative and co-sponsored by 21 campus units, community organizations and academic institutions.

All events will take place at UIC Student Center West. Registration is open, but space is limited. For more information, contact sjiuic@gmail.com or 312-355-5922. Conference live-streaming will be available.