Join current student, Mary Culp, and Professor Stephanie Danker, to learn more about social justice, the Freedom Summer, and art activism at Miami University.
Social Justice & Freedom Summer
Welcome to the Social Justice and Freedom Summer module. We're so glad that you're hearing that you're taking this opportunity to learn more about social justice freedom summer in art activism. My name is Mary Cole. I'm a senior special education student.
And I'm Stephanie Denker. I'm an associate professor of art education at Miami.
We're so excited to walk through this with you guys. So some historical context about Freedom Summer is that it was a 1964 voter registration drive that was sponsored by multiple civil rights organizations, and aimed at increasing black voter registration in Mississippi. So Freedom Summer workers included black Mississippians and more than 1000 out of state predominantly white volunteers. One of the trainings for Freedom Summer volunteers took place on Western college for women's campus, which is now part of Miami University. So it's really interesting being current Miami University faculty and students and seeing kind of the history that is on our campus. In response to this Freedom Summer voter voter registration training, the Ku Klux Klan, police, state, and local authorities carried out a series of violent attacks against the activists. These included arson, beatings, false arrest and the murder of at least four people.
So those attacks happen in Mississippi after the volunteers trained and went by bus down to Mississippi. These are a few facts about Freedom Summer. Mary's said a few of these things already. But there were four organizations that co sponsor the event, there were 1000 volunteers that served in 44 different projects all over the state of Mississippi during 1964 800 volunteers were trained at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. In Mississippi, four people were killed that were associated with this 17,000 people tried to register to vote, but only 1,600 actually did register to vote. This whole effort and initiative led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By 1980, Mississippi had more black elected officials than any other state. And Mississippi still suffers from economic effects of segregation even today.
This is an image from the Freedom Summer digital archive of Freedom Summer volunteers together.
This digital archive, I think it's important to note is accessible through Miami University's library system. So Mary was a student in my class a few years ago, and she wrote this lesson plan as part of the class. So they did look at the archive, to see these images and to see how documentary photography can still be in influence and how we can learn from it today.
It's really interesting, I took this intro to our education class. Three years ago, at this point, when I was a freshman, I'm a senior now. And reflecting on the content of this lesson. And the importance and relevance of our activism as a way to make our voices heard is it is just as applicable, and really new and really unique ways. Today, as it was four years ago, as it was, you know, 40 years ago and 50 and 60 years ago. The goals of Oxford's training for volunteers in 1964, at Western College for Women was to educate and to register black voters to establish freedom schools that emphasize black history and citizenship skills. And to build community centers focusing on health care and other important social services. There were 800 volunteers at the Oxford training and they were predominantly white volunteers from Northern colleges around the area.
And also, just to point out that many of the trainers were black leaders from the organizations like snack and core.
Some more important historical, contextual information and where it's kind of interesting to see how continually relevant is is this idea of nonviolent activism. So some questions to consider. If we were sitting around in the classroom, we'd have a discussion, but please do contemplate and reflect on these as what is a non violent protest? And then what's the difference between a violent protest and a non violent protest? And why do some protests turned violent? Is there and if so, what is the significance of a protest being nonviolent and which is more effective and why these are really interesting questions to consider as we look at the history of activism throughout the fabric of our country, and how we see popping up today. Second of all, is this question we've thrown around the term activist and what really is an activist, an activist as someone who doesn't let a situation go unnoticed. So in the context of that definition, it begs the question, can you be an activist and maybe even are you already an activist?
So what does this have to do with art? We're talking about today, art activism, also type autography and contrast. So art activism is a dynamic practice combining the creative power of the arts to move us emotionally with the strategic planning of activism necessary to bring about social change. And there's so many ways that this is happening today. typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when it's displayed. We're gonna look at a few examples in just a minute. So the arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line length, line spacing, and letter spacing, and adjusting the space between pairs of letters. So in our module, you're going to be able to interact with, with Professor Tucker, who is a communication design professor, and he'll talk more about this contrast refers to the arrangement of opposite elements, light versus dark colors, rough versus smooth textures, large versus small shapes, in a piece so that as to create visual interest, excitement and drama.
Our activism also is shown in so many ways throughout so many different pieces of art, it can be displayed in just a ton of different ways that we're going to explore. This first picture is associated with activists around the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And it shows activists protesting and using a protest sign like we will continue to start talking about. And then we see this more recent protests where there are more protest signs, shown in the picture. And we see these elements like Dr. denker was just talking about with typography. In contrast, I encourage you guys to look at this image and see what stands out to you what draws your eye. How are these messages communicated? What's effective? How did these activists use art to get their point across?
I love how Mary also mentioned before that she didn't ever really think about this being art before. But it really is. you're designing posters, if you are really concerned or motivated to persuade others about your opinion of something?
Absolutely. I mentioned that I wrote this lesson initially as a first year student in an art education class. And that was inspired by visiting the exhibit at the Miami University Art Museum telling people story, African American children's illustrated literature, and add that exhibit I came across an image and read the book, voice of freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer, which was written by Carole Boston, Weatherford and illustrated by Akira Holmes, to move to the next page, this image here. In the book, voice of freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer that was illustrated by accueille. Home, this was kind of what sparked this entire lesson in module that we're now doing together four years later. So it's really interesting to see how art not only communicates, these messages that we wanted to send, but also can inspire just a chain reaction.
So this is the documentary photograph from the 60's of Fannie Lou Hamer, that we're pretty sure the illustrator accurate Holmes was inspired by and she recreated in the collage that you saw on the last slide. And in a similar way, when we were looking at the images of the protest posters, a few slides back, you can see some similarities and in the documentary photographs and how they were documenting the activism that was going on, and the way that it's still happening today. So documentary photography is another way that contemporary artists are being inspired to, to create their work about social issues now. These are the next few images are of the the memorial that is on Western campus at Miami University for Freedom Summer. And this is an image of the chimes and the metal structure going up at the memorial. So there are you'll see in the next few pictures that There are three trees that were planted honoring Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, who were the volunteers that trained our client in Oxford and went to Mississippi and were murdered. These chimes play the chimes of freedom by Bob Dylan. That was a song that was released in 1964. This is just a close up so you can see what they look like. And then this is an image of the memorial that's on Miami University's campus. It's a great place to go to reflect and we would love to have you here to go experience and sit in the space and and think about the events that took place. We threw this one in just to show you that we are traveling to Mississippi and still active in learning and doing research about Freedom Summer. This was from June 2017. I'm on the right there. And Professor Armstrong is in the white. Our president Crawford is in the middle here. Along with some other social justice activists, Jackie Johnson, Ron Scott's lots of other people. So every year there is a service for Cheney, Goodman and Schwerner honoring them in Mississippi, associated with the National Civil Rights conference that people from Miami University present at.
So this entire module is centered centered around some essential questions not only do we get the opportunity to learn about Freedom Summer and reflect on arts activism in the past and in the present, but we hope to empower you guys as activists and are activists at that. So some essential questions to consider as you move on to your art making activity with Dr. Tucker are what are some things happening in the world right now that make you sad, angry or disappointed? Why do people protest and what do you believe in enough that you would stand up for it and use your voice we had the definition of activist of someone who doesn't let a situation go unnoticed. What situation are those for you? Dr. Denker and I are so glad and so excited that you're here taking this module and we are really looking forward to connecting with you guys and being able to see and reflect together on the art that you create.
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