About the film

During the summer of 1964, the nation’s eyes were riveted on Mississippi. Over 10 memorable weeks known as Freedom Summer, more than 700 student volunteers joined with organizers and local African Americans in an historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in the nation’s most segregated state. Working together, they canvassed for voter registration, created Freedom Schools, and established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, with the goal of challenging the segregationist state Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. The campaign was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches and the bombing of 70 homes and Freedom Houses.

Learn more about this film or watch the entire film below:

Freedom Summer Event

WEDU PBS held a preview screening event of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Freedom Summer on June 17, 2014 at Tampa Theatre.

A panel discussion immediately following the screening featured panelists Dr. John Hartman, John Logsdon, Gloria Newton, Dr. Raymond Arsenault and was moderated by FLORIDA THIS WEEK host Rob Lorei (more information below).

In honoring the mission of the volunteers during Freedom Summer, WEDU also hosted a voter registration drive during the event. Staff members from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections were on-hand to help guests register to vote, update voter information, and answer questions.

Photos from the event

Click a photo to enlarge, then browse using the arrows or arrow keys.

About the moderator

Rob Lorei is the Managing Editor of Florida This Week on WEDU PBS and a co-founder of WMNF Radio. He attended Antioch College where he received a BA in Journalism in 1977. He got his start in radio as a news reporter at his campus NPR station, WYSO. Since moving to Florida in 1978 he’s been a panelist on political talk shows on WTOG-TV and WEDU. He took the moderator’s seat of WEDU’s Tampa Bay Week in 2001 and has piloted the program through its 2005 update to Florida This Week. He’s covered West Central Florida politics for more than 20 years and moderated numerous televised political debates. He’s interviewed hundreds of authors, academics, politicians, musicians, artists and entertainers for his broadcasts.

About the panelists

Dr. John Hartman is a practicing clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in Tampa. He has taught at UCLA, University of Michigan, and University of Tampa. Dr. Hartman has written several books in his field, and is currently on the faculty of both the University of South Florida and Florida Psychoanalytic Institute. But before his academic career and while an undergraduate at Harvard, he was an “outside agitator” – a derisive term applied to people from other parts of the country who traveled to the south to participate in civil rights marches, strikes and demonstrations. He answered the call from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was organizing marches in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama to protest discrimination in voter registration.

John Logsdon served as President of the local CORE chapter in 1962 and 1963 (Congress of Racial Equality) while at the University of Missouri. During John’s service with CORE, the big push included non-violent action against restaurants that would only sell food through a back window and against a local human rights committee that would not take a stand against discrimination. John was subjected to failed sanctions by the University of Missouri for CORE fund-raising activities on campus.

Gloria Newton had been president of the local NAACP Youth Council and active in the state and national NAACP. Gloria led protests at restaurants, movie theaters and department stores. In 1961, Gloria organized a sit-in — or rather a drive-in — at Fairyland Amusement Park, a park in Kansas City that refused to admit blacks except for one day each year. She got the local NAACP and CORE chapters to park a car at each of the park’s eight entrances and refused to move until park management changed their policy. Gloria and other demonstrators were arrested and spent the night in jail. It was many years before the park opened to all. In recognition for their work, the youth council received the NAACP’s Ike Smalls Award, which is presented to the nation’s outstanding youth council each year. Gloria was also chosen as one of two youth to attend a meeting at the White House with President John F. Kennedy; Martin Luther King Jr.; and NAACP and CORE executive directors to advocate for the passage of the civil rights bill. Her actions helped end segregation in public facilities in Kansas City.

Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and Program Advisor of the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where he has taught since 1980. A specialist in the political, social, and environmental history of the American South, he has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, and at the Universite d’Angers, in France, where he was a Fulbright Lecturer in 1984-85. From 1980 to 1987, he was the co-director of the Fulbright Commission’s Summer Institute on American Studies at the University of Minnesota; he has served as a consultant for numerous museums and public institutions, including the National Park Service, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the United States Information Agency; and he has lectured on American history and culture in a number of countries, including France, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Norway, Turkey, and Jordan. An active member of the Florida affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union since the early 1980s, he served two terms as state president (1998-2000) and received the Nelson Poynter Civil Liberties Award in 2003.

RELATED CONTENT: WEDU Celebrates the Freedom Riders

In April 2011, WEDU celebrated the Freedom Riders’ 50th anniversary with a premiere of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Freedom Riders at Tampa Theatre, and a special episode of UP CLOSE WITH CATHY UNRUH. Learn More