Smithsonian National Youth Summit: Freedom Summer

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To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will hold a National Youth Summit Wed., Feb. 5, 2014, at noon EST at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Miss., and link high school students across the U.S. in an engaging program on the history and legacy of the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education.

The National Youth Summit brings middle and high school students together with scholars, teachers, policy experts and activists in a national conversation about important events in America’s past that have relevance to the nation’s present and future. Civil rights activists and Freedom School internship participants will discuss the 1964 youth-led effort to end the inequality of African Americans in the South, while discussing the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future.

Regional Youth Summit at the Heinz History Center

Prior to the National Youth Summit, local students will consider the role of local youth activism through the History Center’s on-site regional panel discussion, featuring Sala Udin, a political activist from Pittsburgh who traveled to Mississippi with the Freedom Riders to rally for school desegregation, farmer cooperatives, and voter registration, and currently President of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership. Exploration of a historic case of Pittsburgh youth activism in the 1960s will follow, culminating with students’ consideration of a contemporary issue to which they will formulate a call to action. After a lunch break, students will then join the National Youth Summit Webcast.

Smithsonian Webcast

The summit will include interviews with a panel of experts and civil rights veterans, including Robert Moses, the project director for Freedom Summer; Marshall Ganz, civil rights activist and senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; Michelle Deardorff, professor and department head of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; and Hollis Watkins, Mississippi native and civil rights activist. The summit will incorporate the perspective of students living in the state five decades after the youth-led effort to end political disenfranchisement.

Curriculum Support Materials

Designed to provide students with an opportunity to share their views and debate an issue, the summit aligns with the Common Core Standards for Speaking and Listening. Teachers and other participants will receive a conversation kit, with ideas for leading discussion topics in an age-appropriate manner. Participants in the Regional Youth Summit will receive Smithsonian created pre- and post-visit materials and accompanying DVD.