Editor's Note: Miami University is hosting a 3 p.m. ceremony Friday June 20 to remember Freedom Summer and will plant three trees to memorialize the three civil rights activists killed in Mississippi after their training at Western College for Women.
Fifty years ago, 800 civil rights activists strode into Oxford, a college town where public pools and movie theaters were desegregated just a decade earlier. They came to train for a new kind of war, fought in the backwaters of Mississippi, where they would join a movement to help African Americans throughout the South gain full rights as American citizens.
Western College for Women, adjacent to Miami University, was the last-minute choice to host the training for what would become known as Freedom Summer. Berea College in Berea, Ky., was the planned training site until a prominent alumnus from Mississippi persuaded Berea's president to cancel.
Instead, Western, which would merge with Miami in the 1970s, welcomed students and other young people to train to help register black voters in Mississippi and teach in makeshift "Freedom Schools" to counter the unequal access to education that African Americans were experiencing.
Become a WCPO Insider to read what five veterans of Freedom Summer who settled in Oxford say about those events as well as their thoughts on the successes and failures of the Civil Rights movement since.