‘Voices of Freedom Summer’ premiering Oct. 26

Messenger Post Media
Monroe County Post

During the summer of 1964, months before a presidential election, hundreds of college students traveled to Mississippi intent on registering some of the state’s Black citizens to vote. 

Letters and journalistic accounts of what transpired that summer have been gathered into a documentary, “Voices of Freedom Summer,” which is being co-produced by the College at Brockport Department of Theatre and Music Studies, along with the Brockport Office of Community Development and Intercultural Center. 

The piece will be presented as streamed content starting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. The video will be available on-demand through Election Day, Nov. 3. 

Frank Kuhn, a professor in the Department of Theatre and Music Studies, created the piece while he was teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi and is directing it again. 

“When I mounted this piece in Mississippi in the late 1990s, someone asked why I would want to ‘dig up them old bones,’” Kuhn said. “Both Black and white parents of my Southern Miss students wondered the same thing.

“More than one person commented that it took an outsider to put the project together. [The state of Mississippi] has changed, but not enough. When I taught there … there was much conscious and unconscious stereotyping and de facto segregation. On the other hand, I never saw graffiti with the ‘n-word’ there. Shortly after I moved to Brockport, I saw it drawn in the dirt on the Canal path. 

“Our students are of a generation that has a dedication to equity, inclusion and parity in general, and against discrimination, more than many recent generations. In conversations about the events that transpired this past summer, it seems that the students relate to the material because they see similarities between that time and this. 

“If there is any positive comparison between the election cycles of the summers of 1964 and 2020, it’s seeing young people getting out of their comfort zone and committing themselves to help make the world a better place. It’s happening again.”

The event is free, but registration is required to receive the link. Call 585-395-2787 or visit fineartstix.brockport.edu for information.

Civil rights activist Dick Landerman talks to Hattie Mae Pough, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, promising his assistance and urging her to accompany him to the voter registration office