Old negro spirituals rang from the intersection of Seventh and Mobile Street as marching supporters of Hattiesburg reignited the legacy of local civil rights veterans Wednesday morning.
The event recognized courageous activists who fought for voter registration among blacks with a re-enactment of the 1964 march around Hattiesburg’s court house. More than 150 participants attended the event, marking its 50th anniversary.
According to Don Holmes, vice president of the The University of Southern Mississippi student group Remembering ‘64, said the march was a bold statement.
“We want to say we remember those who lost their lives and those who put selfless service out to fight for our right to vote,” Holmes said. “We want to say ‘We remember ‘64,’” Holmes said.
Southern Miss faculty and members of Remembering ‘64 called for city officials to erect a monument honoring Hattiesburg activists.
Former freedom school student Anthony Harris recalled an incident where he was arrested while protesting near the very corner where he stood. Harris said his mother’s firm word’s “Let him go!” is what released him from jail.
The audience including Harris’s mother, Daisy Harris, reacted with words of support.
Valerie Arnold, assistant to Johnny Dupree, read a proclamation on his behalf.
“We will work diligently to try to get a monument erected here, but that’s a process,” Arnold said.
The proclamation states the mayor will work toward erecting the monument.
President of Remembering ‘64 and USM graduate student Shane Hand added that it only makes sense for the monument to stand near the Forest County Courthouse.
Hand also said he was skeptical about the attendance.
“It’s hard to know who will embrace the event since it’s such a large scale project,” Hand said. “I’m just thrilled with the response.”
The event closed with the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is recognized in the black community as the Negro National Anthem.
The Freedom Day March Reenactment commemorating the 50th anniversary is the first of a series of events recognizing Freedom Summer. The series will end with the Freedom Summer 1964-2014 conference which will be held June 19-21 on the USM campus.