HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg city officials, members of the NAACP and Southern Miss faculty with the university's Center for Black Studies gathered at the Library of Hattiesburg-Petal-Forrest County Thursday morning to kick-off a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.
Freedom Summer was an initiative in 1964 to register black residents to vote.
Hattiesburg was the largest Freedom Summer site in the state.
"There were activities throughout the state, of course, and even throughout the South, but particularly for the Mississippi Summer Project, Hattiesburg was the launching pad," said Dr. Sherita L. Johnson, director of the Center for Black Studies at USM. "We had more freedom schools here, we had more volunteers sent to Hattiesburg from other parts of the country," she said.
"Because of things like Freedom Summer, things have changed for people in my generation, that we're able to do things that my mother and grandmother were not able to do," said Johnny Dupree, mayor of Hattiesburg. "And I think that's important for young people to understand that it wasn't always this way," he said.
Several other events commemorating the anniversary are scheduled around the Hub City, including a re-enactment of the "Freedom Day" march from Mobile Street to the Forrest County Courthouse, which happened on Jan. 22, 1964.
That re-enactment will take place next Wednesday.