Freedom Summer exhibits display people behind struggle

Summer 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the period known as Freedom Summer, a campaign to register black voters in many parts of Mississippi. Volunteers with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), including many college students from around the country, came to Mississippi to help with these and other interrelated efforts.
The hope was to bring national and international attention to the state. While non-Mississippians contributed enormously to the movement, it remains clear that local people were the key in bringing about change in their communities.
Three weeks into the process, on June 21, one native son, James Chaney, a graduate of Meridian St. Joseph Catholic School, and two young men from New York – Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were brutally murdered after being detained in jail and then released.
The three were buried in a dam near Philadelphia and were found six weeks later in August. Chaney had been beaten to death; Goodman and Schwerner had been shot in the chest. This horrific event changed the entire nation and left an indelible mark on the local community and those young people who came  from all over the country to struggle for the rights of all Mississippians.
Fifty years later the state of Mississippi is commemorating this summer with exhibits and activities in several locations. These events may be found on the Freedom Summer web site – as well as the Winter Institute at Ole Miss –
The Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson is hosting several exhibits to commemorate Freedom Summer.
The first of these exhibits is This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, which is now showing through Aug. 17.
Four years in the making, this exhibit is a paradigm-shifting exhibition that presents the Civil Rights Movement through the work and voices of nine activist photographers—men and women who chose to document the national struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement from within the movement.
The core of the exhibition is a selection of 157 black-and-white photographs, representing the work of photographers Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela, and Tamio Wakayama.
As part of This Light of Ours, community members are invited to submit their own mementos to “A Wall To Tell Our Stories,” an in-gallery component that helps commemorate our shared history through family photos, news clippings, objects, and ephemera.
Email scans or photos, items, or memories for addition to the Wall to Carol Peaster at, or bring them by the Museum and add them yourself.
Norman Rockwell: Murder in Mississippi will be on display through Aug. 31. In 1964, LOOK Magazine commissioned an investigative article about the three civil rights workers murder entitled “Southern Justice,” and painter Norman Rockwell was asked to provide an illustration for the magazine’s cover.
Over the course of five weeks, Rockwell intensively studied the circumstances of the murders, made many preliminary drawings, photographs, a preparatory oil sketch, and the finished painting entitled Murder in Mississippi.
This exhibition presents the iconic masterpiece in the context of many related works and thus illuminates the artist’s creative process. Admission: $10 adults, $8 seniors, $5 students (includes admission to This Light of Ours.
A third exhibit at the museum is Icons of Freedom, which features the faces of the Civil Rights Movement.
The faces belong to unrecognized volunteers as well as to the visible leaders of the movement. Artworks in this exhibition portray some of the most celebrated leaders, foot soldiers, and innocent casualties of the fight for freedom in America during the 1950s and 1960s.
Three lithographs by Ben Shahn (1898-1969) are lent by David Goodman of The Andrew Goodman Foundation and depict Civil Rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, who were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in June 1964.
Also on view are an etching by John Wilson (born 1922) of Martin Luther King, Jr., portraits of Medgar and Myrlie Evers by Jason Bouldin (born 1965), and an unfinished quilt by Gwendolyn A. Magee (1943-2011) that honors the participants of the historic 1961 Freedom Rides.
Icons of Freedom is on display until Aug. 3. Visit the museum’s website at for information on these exhibits, costs and hours of operation.