The Special Collections Research Center in Morris Library presents “Fifty Summers Ago: SIU Students in Mississippi,” on exhibit in the first floor rotunda through September 12. Using contemporary articles from the Daily Egyptian and other archival material the exhibit documents the role that SIU Carbondale students played in the Mississippi Summer Project, or Freedom Summer.
In the summer of 1964 a small group of SIU students joined their peers from across the nation in Mississippi. Working alongside African-Americans across the state, college students taught in Freedom Schools, established community centers and registered voters despite harassment and threats of violence.
With experience in civil rights struggles on campus and in southern Illinois communities from Carbondale to Cairo, SIU students contributed energy and leadership to Freedom Summer. Kay Prickett’s time in Greenville was chronicled in Redbook magazine. Brothers Charles, Carver and Cortez Neblett worked with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Charles Neblett, one of SNCC’s Freedom Singers, wrote the lyrics to “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus,” a civil rights anthem. John O’Neal founded the Free Southern Theater. Jane Adams chaired SIU’s effort and taught in the Freedom School in tiny Harmony. Her brother Jim Adams registered voters in the country around Greenville. Sue Nichols taught in Mileston. Ed Hamlett served as SNCC field secretary. Back in Carbondale friends and family raised money to support the volunteers and collected books and supplies for the Freedom Schools.
In conjunction with “Fifty Summers Ago” the library will hold a public discussion and reception in the rotunda on Friday, September 5, from 3:30 to 5. Speakers will include Father Joseph A. Brown, Professor of Africana Studies, and Carbondale City Councilwoman Jane Adams, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology. This exhibit and event were curated by Aaron Lisec.