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Freedom Summer Schedule of Events

Friday, September 12

Rolling Concert

6:00 pm
Location: Dance Department - 100 Cross Street
Performers: Unity Choir, Cross Street AME Zion Church

6:30 pm
Location: Olin Library Steps:
Performers: Middletown High School Choir and Wesleyan Singers

7:00 pm
Location: Memorial Chapel
Performers: Children's Choir of Cross Street AME Zion Church; Dar Williams, Kim and
Reggie Harris

Saturday, September 13

Freedom Summer Symposium
Fayerweather Beckham Hall - 45 Wyllys Avenue

1:30 Panel: "Go South, Young Wes Men": Freedom Summer 1964 and Wesleyan Student Activism
Panelists: Ron Young '86, John Suter '67, Stephen Oleskey '64
Moderator: Ashraf Rushdy, African American Program, English,Wesleyan University 

3:00 Panel: Unwavering Courage: Civil Rights Activists of Freedom Summer
Panelists: Penny Patch, Muriel Tillinghast and Gwendolyn Simmons*
Moderator: Anna Wasescha, President, Middlesex Community College 

4:30 Keynote Lecture: Freedom Summer 50:  Redressing State Violence
Margaret Burnham, Professor of Law and Founder of Civil Rights And Restorative Justice Institute at Northeastern University

Related Events

Wesleyan Special Collections and Archives: "Civil Rights Activism and Wesleyan”
An exhibit featuring historic Civil Rights-era Wesleyan materials, documents, and photographs.
Friday, September 12: 3-5
Saturday, September 13: 9-12

Co-sponsored by the Center for African American Studies, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, Olin Library and Special Collections, the Center for the Arts, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Academic Affairs, Green Street Arts Center, and Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church.



Margaret Burnham

Margaret Burnham

Professor Burnham, a Freedom Summer Alum herself, joined the Northeastern University School of Law faculty in 2002. Her fields of expertise are civil and human rights, comparative constitutional rights, and international criminal law. She is the founder of the School of Law’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Program, which engages students in legal matters relating to the 1960s US civil rights movement. In 2010, Professor Burnham headed a team of outside counsel and law students in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit: Professor Burnham’s team accused Franklin County Mississippi law enforcement officials of assisting Klansmen in the kidnapping, torture and murder of two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. The case and settlement were widely covered in the national press.

Professor Burnham began her career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In the 1970s, she represented civil rights and political activists. In 1977, she became the first African American woman to serve in the Massachusetts judiciary, when she joined the Boston Municipal Court bench as an associate justice. In 1982, she became partner in a Boston civil rights firm with an international human rights practice. In 1993, South African president Nelson Mandela appointed Professor Burnham to serve on an international human rights commission to investigate alleged human rights violations within the African National Congress. The commission was a precursor to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A former fellow of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Studies, Professor Burnham has written extensively on contemporary legal and political issues.

Kim & Reggie Harris

Kim & Reggie Harris

Consummate musicians and storytellers, Kim & Reggie Harris are a mini festival of diversity. Combining traditional African-American spirituals and freedom songs with original folk, they sing of life, love, the quest for freedom, environment and community. Their latest CD, “Resurrection Day,” binds these themes into a profoundly moving personal odyssey of inspiration and hope, adding Reggie’s experience as an organ donor recipient to the social justice palette. For over two decades, Kim & Reggie have been affiliated with the John F Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program, offering multimedia educational performances for students and community, “Music & The Underground Railroad” and “Dream Alive.”

Stephen Oleskey photo

Stephen Oleskey

Stephen Oleskey participated in the Wesleyan-Tuskegee Institute Exchange Program in 1960 or 1961 (believe it was 1960) and was a Law Student Intern in Panola County Mississippi in the summer of 1966 working with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and under the sponsorship of the Law Students’ Civil Rights Leadership Council. He also chaired the Wesleyan Assembly Committee which brought noted author James Baldwin and controversial Human Rights Activist/Minister Malcolm X to speak at Wesleyan in 1963-1964. He has been actively involved since 1966 in legal aid for the poor programs in New York City while in law school and as a private practitioner in Boston from 1968 to the present. He has received the American Bar Associations Lifetime Achievement Award for his Pro Bono Work. He was co-lead counsel from 2004 to 2013 in Boumediene v. Bush, a Federal Habeas Corpus suit which resulted in a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2008 holding that men detained in Guantanamo (six of whom they represented) were entitled to seek habeas corpus relief in federal court. All six men were released following their habeas corpus trial in November 2008.

Penny Patch

Penny Patch

Penny Patch worked as an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1962-1965 in Southwest Georgia and Mississippi. She helped wotj community voter registration and election campaigns, organized and participated in demonstrations to desegregate public accommodations, and taught in Freedom Schools. Moving to Vermont in the years after her time in SNCC, she became a nurse-midwife and has a long history of work in maternal child health. She remains active in radical justice issues in her community and is presently teaching a course on Race and the Criminal Justice System at Springfield College in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. She is a contributor to two books: Deep in Our Hearts: Nine Women in the Freedom Movement (2000), UGA Press; Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (2010), Univ of Illinois Press.

John Suter

John Suter

John Suter is president of the board of the Center for Transformative Action, an independent nonprofit affiliated with Cornell University. Bridging campus and community, CTA serves as a fiscal sponsor and incubator for innovative social change projects on campus, in the Ithaca community, and statewide and fosters the principles and methods of nonviolence and social entrepreneurship in the nonprofit and for-profit realms.

In 2012 he retired after 12 years with the New York State Archives, where he focused on statewide efforts to build a balanced documentary record of New York’s history. He directed the Center for World Music in San Diego (1980-84) and the New York Folklore Society (1990s),  served as administrative director of the Ethnic Folk Arts Center in New York City (1985-88), and coordinator of An American Festival (1989), a multicultural theater, dance, and music festival of arts for social change at Cornell University.

John served in the Peace Corps (Somalia, 1966-68), was active in the Civil Rights Movement, including Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964, and is currently a facilitator for Talking Circles on Race and Racism, an ongoing series of small-group conversations bringing white people and people of color together for honest, open dialogue. He attended the Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference in Jackson in June 2014.

Muriel Tillinghast

Muriel Tillinghast 

Muriel Tillinghast is a highly respected civil rights activist who began her work as a youth organizer while in junior high school. During college she served as president of the Non-violent Action Group that worked on desegregation issues and housing matters in Washington, D.C., Delaware and Maryland. In addition to working on operations for the historic March on Washington, she directed key projects and major operations for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Her civil rights work continues in her tireless advocacy on tennat rights, prison education, and medical intervention. Ms. Tillinghast will be speaking at Russell Library in Middletown on Thursday, 11 September following the screening of the PBS documentary Freedom Summer

Ronald Young

Ronald Young

As a student at Wesleyan in the 1960's, Ron Young was active in student civil rights initiatives and his work took him to Memphis, Tennesse where he participated in the Student Interracial Ministry. In addition to working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama in 1965, Mr.Young also had the opportunity to speak at the Wesleyan events that featured Dr. King.  Since 2003, Wesleyan University alum Ron Young has worked as a consultant National Interreligious Initiavtive for Peace. This organization works with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim national religious organizations commited to developing consensus positions and mobilizing public support for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. He has spoken and writen widely on the Middle East and interfaith cooperation, taught courses on Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and travelled widely in the Middle East. His forthcoming memoir is entitled Crossing Boundaries in the Americas, Vietnam and the Middle East. 


Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons

Dr. Simmons is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion and affiliated faculty in the Women Studies Department. Simmons received her BA from Antioch University in Human Services and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion with a specific focus on Islam from Temple University as well as a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. Simmons’ primary academic focus in Islam is on the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) and its impact on Muslim women, contemporarily. Simmons spent two years (1996-1998) living and conducting dissertation research in the Middle East countries of Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. The areas of focus for her teaching at this time include: Islam, Women, Religion and Society; Women and Islam, African American Religious Traditions, and Race, Religion, & Rebellion.  In addition to her academic studies in Islam, Simmons was a disciple in Sufism (the mystical stream in Islam) for seventeen years (1971-1986) under the guidance of Sheikh Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyadeen, a Sufi Mystic from Sri Lanka, until his passing. She remains an active member of the Bawa Muhaiyadeen Fellowship and Mosque and student of this great Saint’s teachings.

Simmons has a long history in the area of civil rights, human rights and peace work. She was on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace, justice, human rights and international development organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa. for twenty-three years. During her early adult years as a college student and thereafter, she was active with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and spent seven years working full time on Voter Registration and desegregation activities in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960′s.

Image: On June 7, 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received an honorary degree and delivered the baccalaureate sermon at Wesleyan University. Shown here are Pres. Victor L. Butterfield and Dr. King, with Dr. King’s friend and Wesleyan Prof. of Religion John Maguire behind them. Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, Wesleyan University.