Freedom Summer 60th Anniversary Commemoration

In 1964 during “Freedom Summer,” many civil rights activists traveled to Mississippi to fight voter intimidation and increase the number of registered Black voters. Civil rights volunteers met virulent opposition from both the Ku Klux Klan and state and local law enforcement. 

Among the group that traveled to Mississippi that summer was Queens College student Andrew Goodman, along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. On June 21, 1964, just one day after arriving in Mississippi, the three activists were murdered by Ku Klux Klan members in a racially motivated attack. A massive search ensued for the missing activists. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led sermons across the region—one in QC’s Colden Auditorium—calling for justice, and after 44 days their bodies were found. 

The attention garnered by the tragic events of that summer helped usher in the 1964 Civil Rights Act—the historic federal legislation which prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal—as well as the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Upon the 60th anniversary of this heroic effort and to honor the dedication and sacrifice of the civil rights workers, Queens College will be hosting special events this June: 

Thursday, May 30

At Queens College’s One-Hundredth Commencement on Thursday

President’s Medals will be awarded by President Frank H. Wu to family members of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, who have spent their lives continuing the civil rights legacies of their siblings. The President’s medal is the highest administrative honor at Queens College.

David Goodman has been influential in the establishment and advancement of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created by David and Andrew’s parents that supports youth leadership development, voting accessibility, and social justice initiatives on campuses across the country. Along with his wife, Sylvia, they created the Andrew Goodman Ambassador program. The ambassadors work to register voters, bring down voting barriers, and tackle social justice issues on their respective college campuses. Queens College is one of 69 colleges in the nation sponsoring Andrew Goodman ambassadors. 

Stephen A. Schwerner joined the Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) with his brother during the civil rights movement. CORE pioneered the use of nonviolent direct action in America’s civil rights struggle. He has marched against segregation and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, was a draft counselor during the Vietnam war, taught classes on the civil rights movement, and helped start the Park Slope Food Co-op. He worked at Queens College from 1963 until 1976, starting out as an intern and ultimately becoming the director of Counseling Services and chair of the Academic Senate. In 1976, he moved to Ohio where he was the dean of students at Antioch College. He later became a professor at the college, teaching a range of courses in education, psychology, the civil rights movement, and the history of modern jazz.

Julia Chaney-Moss is a minister from Willingboro, New Jersey. She has been a civil rights advocate throughout her life, speaking publicly and appearing on many media broadcasts to discuss her brother’s memory as well as other civil rights issues. Julia has worked in the field of human services for 40 years, first at New York University and then at New York Foundling. She joined the ministry due to her strong desire to be the best resource possible for the families and children she was meeting in the course of her work.

Thursday, June 13 at 4pm

At Home with QC presents a virtual program, “Queens College and Mississippi Freedom Summer” with Annie Tummino, head of Special Collections and Archives at Queens College’s Rosenthal Library. This talk will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer and the contributions of Queens College students to organizing and activist efforts leading up to and during the 1964 summer movements. Annie will pull directly from the rich materials in the Queens College Special Collections and Archives to explore the history and lasting legacy of that summer, including the tragic losses of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Some of the materials that will be featured include civil rights movement photographs and student activism materials. Other collections to be featured, not previously digitized, may include items from our large Civil Rights and Social Justice collecting area

Tuesday, June 18 at 7pm in Goldstein Theatre

There will be a special performance of The Invaders: A Freedom Summer Play, presented by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Kupferberg Center for the Arts, and Queens College. Written by Ralph Carhart and directed by Renée Flemings, this play commemorates the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer. The Invaders takes us from the brilliantly lit theatres of a college campus in New York City, to the dark hidden roads of a bloody Mississippi midnight. It is a story of yesterday, with echoes that reverberate around us 60 years later. 

If you have any questions, please be in touch with Lillian Zepeda, Director of Marketing, at lillian.zepeda@qc.cuny.edu.