Conference examines pivotal ‘Freedom Summer’ of ’64

Conference poster above. Featured speakers (left to right) Robin D.G. Kelley, Julian Bond and Angela Davis. Click on individual pictures to download larger images.



Notable civil rights activists, scholars and community organizers will gather May 28 – 30 at the University of Illinois at Chicago for a national conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a landmark event in the civil rights movement.

The conference, “Freedom Dreams, Freedom Now!,” will examine the legacy of Freedom Summer and its implications for contemporary social and racial justice work and scholarship. All events will take place at UIC Student Center West, 828 S. Wolcott St.

The Freedom Summer of 1964 aimed to increase voter registration among disenfranchised African-Americans in Mississippi and to bring national attention to the oppression they experienced.

The efforts of the state’s black residents and more than 1,000 out-of-state volunteers were challenged, often violently, by local residents and authorities. The actions and backlash spurred Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which had stalled earlier.

The conference will feature workshops, lectures, panels, performances, photo and art displays, and film screenings, including the Chicago premiere of award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s new PBS documentary, “Freedom Summer.”

Speakers include:

  • Julian Bond, civil rights activist and chairman emeritus of the NAACP
  • Angela Davis, author, scholar and social justice activist
  • Robin D. G. Kelley, author, UCLA distinguished professor of history and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. history
  • Steven Hawkins, executive director, Amnesty International
  • John Dittmer, award-winning author, historian and civil rights scholar

Dr. Peter Orris, professor and chief of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to assist with voter registration and short wave radio installation as an 18-year-old volunteer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Council of Federated Organizations. He will join a roundtable with other former civil rights activists during the opening session Wednesday evening.

The event is hosted by UIC’s Social Justice Initiative and co-sponsored by 21 campus units, community organizations and academic institutions.

Registration is open, but space is limited. For more information, email, call (312) 355-5922 or visit, where conference live-streaming will be available.

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