Ramapo holds 60th Anniversary of Freedom Summer Installation

The Civic Community Engagement Center (CCEC) hosted the 60th Anniversary of Freedom Summer Installation in the Alumni Lounges on April 16. The installation was an interactive exhibit highlighting the history of the 1964 voter rights campaign in Mississippi.

The Installation was put together by senior psychology major Sydney Mattea and freshman political science major Sarah Glisson. Mattea and Glisson are both student ambassadors for the Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), a nonprofit organization which aims to encourage students to become more civically engaged.

Andrew Goodman was a 20-year-old student from Queens College in New York in 1964 when he signed up to volunteer for the Freedom Summer Project, a grassroots initiative that recruited mostly white student volunteers from the north to help spearhead voter registration efforts in southern states with extensive Jim Crow laws. Goodman arrived in Mississippi on June 21, 1964 with Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. That night, the three were captured and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

“This event really just stands to give context to Freedom Summer, show stories from Freedom Summer, give a timeline of events and let students know how empowered they can be,” said Mattea, the lead student ambassador for AGF. “Most of the volunteers were college aged, and we want to remind students of the phrase that [the Freedom Summer Volunteers] always used, that is, ‘If not us, then who?’ It reminds students of their power and the ability that they have to do things.”

The exhibit was a months-long project created by Mattea and Glisson that was well-received by members of the Ramapo College community. The display included a historical timeline of the events of the 1960s, Goodman’s authentic volunteer application and testimonies from Freedom Summer volunteers. Attendees also had the opportunity to make custom protest pins and complete an authentic literacy test used in Louisiana during the Jim Crow era.

On the back wall of the installation, there were protest posters giving those who walked through a visual of some slogans used during the Civil Rights Movement. In the corner of the room, a screen played a pre-recorded interview with Robert Masters, another Queens College student volunteer and friend of Goodman, who recently sat down with Mattea and Glisson to share his story.

The project as a whole aimed to be a reminder to both Ramapo students and students across the nation of the importance of voting and the power that they hold in our country to make a real difference. 

“This project is the start of what I hope will be a movement to get more Ramapo students aware of Freedom Summer and the Andrew Goodman Foundation and why our work is so important,” said Glisson. “It’s easy for us to say today that we ‘don’t vote’ or don’t care about politics, but at one time there were thousands of Americans that were willing to fight and even die for their voting rights. It just really puts things into perspective,” she said. 




Featured photo by Olivia Parisi