Mary Kate Linehan

Miami University’s premiere of the “Down In Mississippi” play Oct. 1 marked the beginning of the 2009 Freedom Summer National Conference and 45th reunion celebration, according to Mary Jane Berman, director of the Center for American and World Cultures.

Berman said the 2009 Freedom Summer National Conference is a series of events recognizing Miami’s role during the Civil Rights Movement organized by the Center for American and World Cultures and the Western Program.

“It (the Freedom Summer celebration) actually starts Oct. 9 at 8:30 p.m., but we have several pre-conference programs,” Berman said.

These pre-conference events include a presentation at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in 212 MacMillan Hall by African-American journalist Charles Cobb.

Berman also said at 3 p.m. Friday, there will be two pre-conference teaching workshops. The first program, “Who’s Teaching Whom?,” is an opportunity for graduate students to meet with Civil Rights workers to review the research that the graduate students are doing. Then at 4 p.m., there is a workshop for teachers, teacher education students and librarians on teaching the Civil Rights Movement.

The conference will officially begin at 8:30 p.m. Friday on Western Campus with the Candle Lighting Ceremony at the Freedom Summer memorial.

According to Berman, the public is invited and the event will include some introductory statements by J. Charles Jones, an attorney who organized the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Shaw University in 1960; Richard Momeyer, philosophy professor at Miami; and Phyllis Hoyt, dean and vice president of student affairs and dean of Western College for Women from 1946-74.

For Nancy Arthur, co-organizer for the 2009 Freedom Summer National Conference, the Freedom Summer Memorial and the opportunities with working at the Western College program led to her involvement with the conference.

“When the opportunity came about for a 45th reunion for the Freedom Summer volunteers that trained here in 1964, I knew I wanted to be involved and to bring back the Civil Rights Workers to the place where it all started,” Arthur said.

Arthur said the conference would incorporate talks, a documentary film series, oral histories and keynote lunch and brunch speeches that will focus on Civil Rights veterans and figures.

“For me, just having the people here, who really participated in the Civil Rights Movement from the 1960s, to listen to their stories, their oral histories that will be happening throughout the conference, would be the most meaningful thing for me,” Arthur said.

According to Berman, those interested in attending the conference should register for the event. Registration for Miami faculty, staff and students is free. However, if attendees would like to attend the lunch Saturday, they must pay $12.

Arthur and Berman said the anniversary is important part of Miami’s history.

“We have this incredible historical legacy, that as time passes, we’re beginning to lose that memory and that knowledge, so its very important that that legacy be kept alive and everything that it represented, all the efforts for social equity and justice, and human dignity,” Berman said. “It’s very important that as an institution we really keep that candle burning, so to speak.”