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Freedom Summer participant lectures at USM

Sarah Grace Meyn
The “Faces of Freedom Summer: The Photographs of Herbert Randall” exhibit is available for the Hattiesburg community to view in USM’s Gallery of Art and Design.

Sixty years ago, a young photographer traveled to Hattiesburg to document the local civil rights movement. Last week one of his subjects, a Hattiesburg native and civil rights activist, gave a lecture about that photographer’s work.
Dr. Anthony Harris gave a lecture at Gonzalez Auditorium as part of an exhibit called “Faces of Freedom Summer: The Photographs of Herbert Randall.” The exhibit is in the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gallery of Art and Design. It showcases photographer Herbert Randall’s work documenting the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in Hattiesburg.
Herbert Randall was born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, where he studied photography. In 1964, Randall received the John Hay Whitney Fellowship for photography. That same year, the director of Hattiesburg’s arm of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project recruited him to document the program.
Randall took 1,759 negatives during his time in Hattiesburg. Randall donated all those negatives to USM in 1998. His most recognized works are of activist Gracie Hawthorne, also known as the “Face of Freedom Summer,” and of Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld after he was assaulted by segregationists.
Harris showed these and other photos during his lecture. He recounted his memories of being part of the movement as a child. His mother, activist Daisy Harris Wade, involved him and his brother into the movement. He also recounted stories of local activists, such as Sandy Leigh, Gracie Hawthorne, and his own mother.
Throughout his talk, Harris emphasized the importance of preserving the memory of the civil rights struggle.
“It is so important that we link the past to the present, because there’s so many things that happened in ‘64, decades before that, that were just wrong,” he said. “We need to make sure we don’t return to those days.”
Senior Kie Banks echoed this point. She has always been interested in Black history, and makes it a point to see every Black lecturer that she can. She shares Harris’ concern that younger generations are undereducated about civil rights history.
“If others are like me then they do not have the knowledge only because it was not given to them,” she said. “But I do feel as though more and more of the youth are seeking the education of the Black culture on their own and only this will make us grow as a culture.”
Harris is himself a USM alum, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees here. He also went on to serve on the faculty and administration. He currently serves as interim dean of the college of education at Prairie View A&M University.
USM’s Center for the Study of the Gulf South and the School of Humanities sponsored the event as part of USM’s celebration of Black History Month. 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project.
Randall also published his photographs in a book, Faces of Freedom Summer. They’re also available in USM’s special collections.

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