Black History Month Conference

"Come, Let Us Build A New World Together: Fifty Years after the Mississippi Summer Project"
Date: 2/25/2016 to 2/27/2016

February 25-27, 2016

Benedictine University, Lisle, Illinois, February 25, Roosevelt University, Chicago, February 26-27, 2016

Sponsored by the Chicago SNCC History Project, Benedictine University, Roosevelt University, University of Chicago: Upward Bound Project, Saint Pius V Parish, Crossroads Fund,  Arkus Center for Social Justice, Chicago Reporter, Public Allies, The Chicago Freedom School, Frances Parker High School  (Partial List)

This is a three day conference, “Come, Let Us Build a New World Together: Fifty Years after the Mississippi Summer Project” to be held during Black History Month, February 25-27, 2016. This conference will focus on the history of the fight for voting rights, the history and role of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in that fight, lessons from the Mississippi Summer Project, voter registration organizing, Freedom Schools, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, ramifications of the movement, from civil rights to Black Power and connections with contemporary struggles around education and violence in and against “endangered communities”. It is designed to connect the past with the current wave of youth activism and the socio-economic crises of “endangered communities.” This conference will be dedicated to the life and legacy of the late Julian Bond.

The first day of the conference is designed primarily for teachers, social workers, and health professionals working with African American populations. There will be plenary sessions along with formal and informal discussion sessions. The focus, in the morning, will be on the early days of the movement, the transition from the student sit in movement and Freedom Rides to the creation of SNCC, the Mississippi Summer Project and in particular the role of Freedom Schools in the project. Freedom Rider, SNCC staff member, retired school teacher, John Hardy, will discuss his slide show on the Freedom Rides. Also, award winning, photographer, Herbert Randall will be present to discuss his “Faces of Freedom” slide show. It is based on the more than 80 photographs taken in Mississippi during Mississippi Freedom Summer. It documents day-to-day life in Mississippi and the conditions that made the Mississippi Summer Project necessary, such as the violence and intimidation preventing African Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote and the murders of the three civil rights workers, Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney The afternoon, will be a more in depth discussion of Freedom Schools, their ramifications for today and the opportunity to discuss the uses of the conference material inside and outside of the classroom.

The next two days will be an inter-generational conference at Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois. The program will be designed for students (high-school, undergraduate, and graduate), community organizations, church groups, academics and social justice advocates. The format  is an interactive one of panels, discussion circles, films, and musical performances by the SNCC Freedom Singers, the Mark Durham Trio and others. Excerpts from the Stanley Nelson film “Freedom Summer” will be shown and discussed.

The closing sessions will be a presentation and discussion with Bree Newsome, the young African American woman who removed the Confederate flag in South Carolina. The objectives of the conference are to:

  • Gain a better understanding of the “long civil rights movement” and the role of SNCC in that movement

  • In particular the unique contributions of SNCC (1) its intergenerational organizing and work (2) commitment to participatory democracy (3) bottom up organizing (4) respect for and support of local leadership,  (5) gender equality and (6)impact on world-wide movements for social justice lessons to be learned from the civil rights movement in relationship to today’s youth movements

  • Provide a venue for youth to meet and exchange ideas with an earlier generation of organizers, activists and those who might become activists

  • Encourage cross-generational communication and alliances in order to “build a new world together.

We are doing this to preserve this important history but also to return it to the people who created it so that they can meet the challenges of the future. We do it in February in honor of Dr. Carter G. Woodson who began, what was then Negro History Week, in 1926. He believed that knowing “Negro” history would enrich the lives of “Negros” and others thereby lessening tensions and conflicts. Recent events have shown us that there is still  a dire need to enrich people’s lives with knowledge of the African American experience and lessen tensions.

Event Contacts

Fannie Rushing

Location and Registration Info

February 25 - Benedictine University, Lisle, IL
February 26-27, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL

Registration Cost: $10 per day, $25 for all three days