Hattiesburg will have its 50th anniversary Freedom Day reenactment march through downtown Jan. 22, at 10 a.m. The march will begin at Trinity Baptist Church and proceed to the Forrest County Courthouse.
This time marchers will not ask for voting rights, but for the city of Hattiesburg to erect a monument honoring local civil rights veterans who suffered and endured for equality.
Notable community citizens will speak, including USM president Rodney Bennett, Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree and Anthony Harris, son of activist and former Freedom School student Daisy Harris.
The Freedom Summer dialogues, a series of memorial events, will follow the event, occurring the first Tuesday of each month from February to May from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center, hosted by the USM Center for Black Studies.
According to public records from USM McCain Library and Archives, Hattiesburg served as Mississippi’s largest Freedom Summer site in 1964. The 1964 Freedom Summer was a movement of over 1,000 volunteers that came to Mississippi to aid in educating and registering African-Americans in the community to achieve suffrage.
A community movement for freedom came to Hattiesburg in 1962 with the arrival of two pilots of history, Hollis Watkins and Curtis Hayes from Pike County. They came to start a voter registration campaign that was eventually handed over to Victoria Gray, who taught voter registration classes.
These movements culminated on Jan. 22, 1964, otherwise known as the South’s first Freedom Day. Many consider this to be the day Freedom Summer really began.
Citizens marched down to the courthouse, where hundreds of Forrest County African-Americans stood in the rain outside the courthouse to attempt to achieve voter status.