1964 Freedom Summer Trail reopens in Hattiesburg

courtesy photo

The city of Hattiesburg reopened the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail with the help of the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission and the Forrest County Board of supervisors Jan. 31. The 1964 Freedom Summer Trail is a 16-stop audio driving tour in Hattiesburg that takes attendees through the history of civil rights for African Americans in the city.

The Freedom Summer was a campaign in Mississippi in 1964 to register as many black voters as possible. The volunteers stood outside of Forrest County Courthouse in the pouring rain to register to vote.

“I hope it tells our story to not only folks who live here but also folks who visit,” Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said. “Hattiesburg is such a dynamic place with people coming in to go to Southern Miss or William Carey, to take a job at the hospital or be stationed at Camp Shelby.  When you have that kind of influx, you often lose your story, and it isn’t passed down to future generations.”

Mayor Barker said that the Freedom Summer Trail gives a personal and authentic connection between future generations and the events of 1964.

The reopening of the Freedom Summer Trail came with many updates and additions. These updates include signage throughout the city, a website, an audio tour and new brochures for the trail. The latest addition to the trail is a new stop at Southern Miss to commemorate Clyde Kennard and his efforts towards equality in Mississippi universities.  

A statue commemorating Vernon Dahmer Jr. was announced at the press conference by District One Supervisor of Forrest County David Hogan.

“The board of supervisors is in conjunction with the city of Hattiesburg and Forrest General Hospital to erect a statue in the likeness of Vernon Dahmer Jr.,” Hogan said.

Dahmer was a leading civil rights activist in Mississippi during the 1960s who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 for his efforts in gaining civil rights for minorities.

“The reason that we are here today is to introduce a new trail marker for the city of Hattiesburg,” stated Frank James, chairman of the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission. “We are trying to push Hattiesburg to become not only just a tourist destination but a cultural tourist destination.”  

James said the tourism commission is working to promote black history and make the city more culturally aware.

James said he hopes that young people can take time to learn the history of their city.  “You do not know where you’re going if you don’t know where you have been,” James said.

Hattiesburg encourages anyone interested in the history of civil rights movements in Hattiesburg to attend the trail.

photo courtesy iStock