In 1964, they faced death threats in the name of justice. Now, they're coming to campus to tell their stories.
They were student leaders who established a legacy of civil rights and social justice that survives to this day. And they were largely forgotten.
Nearly 50 years after their efforts in Mississippi in 1964, members of the Freedom Summer Project will reunite at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to share their stories.
"The Freedom Summer Project was one of the most important events of the civil rights movement, yet it has received far less attention than the contributions of more public individuals like Martin Luther King Jr.," said Mark McPhail, dean of the College of Arts and Communication.
At the time, poll taxes, voter ID laws and threats of lynching prevented people from exercising their right to vote. Freedom Summer participants - most of them students - traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to register as many African American voters as they could.
"They risked their lives," McPhail said. "They knew there was a possibility they might not come back, and they went anyway."
Over the course of the project, seven people were killed, 80 workers were beaten, more than 1,000 people were arrested and dozens of black homes and churches were burned or bombed.
UW-Whitewater students will hear firsthand from the people who lived through these times.
Freedom Summer is the theme of this year's Campus Diversity Forum, Sept. 27-28. Speakers will be visiting classes throughout the week, and professors will integrate Freedom Summer into the curriculum. (See right column for list of presenters).
Sweet Honey In The Rock, an all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble, will peform. These Grammy Award-winning performers express their history as women of color through song, dance and sign language.
McPhail hopes the campus diversity forum will serve as an empowering experience for students.
"Many of today's students don't feel powerful," he said. "Freedom Summer is an example of how students' hard work, discipline and compassion profoundly changed history."
For a schedule and more information on the program, visit the Campus Diversity Forum website.