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Back to the Delta: SPOHP’s Ongoing Documentation of the Civil Rights Movement

In August the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF returned to the Mississippi Delta to continue research on the Civil Rights Movement with veteran Civil Rights activists and leading scholars of the Mississippi Freedom Movement. SPOHP’s research team of UF undergraduate and graduate students, as well as students from FSU, collaborated with the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization, focusing on the movement’s origins and researching its impact, as well as documenting contemporary legacies in a region that gave birth to one of the most vibrant social movements in American history.

Under the supervision of Mississippi Valley State University Professor Stacy J. White and legendary Civil Rights activist Charles McLaurin, the SPOHP team expanded the geographic scope of their 2008 research in which they interviewed veterans of the Civil Rights Movement on the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the establishment of freedom schools to teach voter literacy to the youth of the time, the leadership of local African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement, and the personal histories from participants in Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964.

The 2009 research trip included a public panel on the legacies of the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, held at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. Participants joining SPOHP director Paul Ortiz included: Professor Hasan Jeffries, author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt; Professor Emilye Crosby, author of A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle In Claiborne County, Mississippi; and Professor Curtis Austin, author of Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party.

“The history of the black freedom struggle in the Deep South is undergoing a scholarly revolution,” Dr. Ortiz said, “and UF students will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chronicle the history of a movement that changed American history. Our students will gather oral history interviews that will be used by future generations of students and scholars interested in learning the lessons of civic engagement, citizenship and social change taught by courageous activists who risked their lives in the face of tremendous odds.”

To highlight the event, SPOHP produced a podcast in early August featuring selected segments from 2008, including interviews of longtime Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists and Civil Rights Movement educators Margaret Block and Hollis Watkins on the history of SNCC, the importance of music in the Civil Rights Movement, and the ongoing fight for racial equality. For more information, visit www.history.ufl.edu/oral or www.usm.edu/crdp.

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Danielle Navarette, Public Programs & Outreach Coordinator, dvnavarrete@ufl.edu

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