Wednesday, June 22, 2005
PHILADELPHIA, MS – Public school teachers from around the region will converge in Philadelphia, Miss., June 22-24 for what is expected to be a landmark event aimed at providing teacher training through first-hand perspectives on the 1960's Civil Rights Movement. At the same time, two blocks away in the Neshoba County courthouse, Edgar Ray Killen stands trial for the gruesome murder of three civil rights workers forty one years ago in this small Mississippi town. The conference has been planned by Philadelphia Coalition, which initiated the call for justice in the 1964 case and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi.
Although the timing of the two events is coincidental (Killen's trial was postponed due to injury), their complementary relationship is enlightening. Just as Killen's trial proves that the need for racial justice is as salient today as it was forty years ago, the Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Living Memorial Civil Rights Education Summit elucidates the urgent need for creative ways to teach today's children the hard lessons of the civil rights movement. Organizers of the summit believe that public atonement for past racial crimes must be combined with sustained education about America's racial history to properly address and begin to eradicate racism in our country.
Deborah Owens, a local educator and a member of the planning committee the summit said, "Educators need to be empowered to teach civil rights history. Teachers do not have to teach children and young adults what to think. They just need to teach history; truth is embedded in the history." And when history comes alive in the form of an internationally publicized civil rights trial in a small Mississippi town, the time is ripe to tackle the dearth of civil rights curriculum available in America's schools.
Free to any teachers who want to attend, the education summit aims to provide educators with unique tools to teach their students the historical lessons of the civil rights movement, lessons often ignored in classrooms. At its roots, the Civil Rights Movement was a result of the bravery of everyday people, local citizens who put their lives on the line for the sake of change. In the annals of Mississippi history, the stories of the Civil Rights Movement are among the most powerful.
Sessions of the conference will include oral history training, curriculum development, use of new Web resources on civil rights, as well as a keynote address by civil rights veteran Lawrence Guyot.
"The Civil Rights Movement was the turning point for race relations in the United States," said Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. "Grassroots activists, many of them young people, became empowered to dismantle segregation. It is fitting and indeed necessary for young people today to learn those lessons of empowerment and grassroots leadership." This has never been more apparent than it is right now in Philadelphia, as the town endeavors to come to terms with its own past and sustain itself in a continued struggle for racial equality in the South.
The Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Living Memorial Civil Rights Education Summit is sponsored by Neshoba Education Foundation, Philadelphia Public Schools, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation from the University of Mississippi; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and the Philadelphia Coalition.