There was a large turnout Wednesday for a special screening of a new documentary which highlights some local history. People from throughout the nation and state were on hand for the screening of the "Freedom Summer" documentary in Meridian Wednesday. This year marks the 50th anniversary for Freedom Summer 1964.
The documentary will air nationwide later this year on PBS. It chronicles the events that happened during the summer of 1964 in Mississippi.
It was during that time that hundreds of mostly young volunteers from around the nation converged on the state to register blacks to vote, and among other things start freedom schools. At these schools students learned about subjects that were not otherwise taught to black children in Mississippi schools, such as black history and civics. Participants during Freedom Summer '64 are optimistic that the film will serve as an inspiration.
"I want to see more of this so that young people in Alabama, and other southern states such as Mississippi know that we really got involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and that we as young people were the backbone," says local civil rights activist, Roscoe Jones.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary for the deaths of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. All three were killed while working with the Freedom Summer initiative.
"I'm just glad that this is being observed so that maybe our young people will be able to see, and be more appreciative of the privileges that they have today because of the sacrifices that have been made," says James Chaney's daughter, Angela.
"We hope that we can show something very positive, and Meridian can be modeled for reconciliation, and people coming together," says Freedom Summer '64 participant, David Dennis. "That's what we hope this will do."
Former Mississippi Governor William Winter also attended the screening. As founder for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, he says remembering the state's past is imperative.
"I think now we look back and we wonder how these things could've happened," says Winter. "Out of that I hope that we will remind ourselves that we can't ever let anything like that happen again."
The Freedom Summer documentary is set to air nationwide on PBS on June 24th.
Freedom Summer 1964 is recognized as being the most violent period in Mississippi since Reconstruction. During that time 65 buildings, which included 35 churches, were bombed or burned. Hundreds of people were also beaten. The efforts from that summer resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave blacks the right to vote.