HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Several hundred people marched through downtown Hattiesburg Wednesday morning, braving the cold weather to commemorate civil rights history. It was the first of several events this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of "Freedom Summer 1964."
Marchers remembered the struggles of the past and recognized the efforts of those brave individuals who fought for freedom. USM president, Dr. Rodney Bennett, helped lead the marchers down Mobile Street toward the Forrest County Courthouse.
Back in 1964, the university was not a part of Freedom Day and had not yet been integrated.
"I am pleased that today, our Center for Black Studies, has organized such a meaningful march and conference to celebrate others who helped lay the foundation for where we stand today," said Dr. Bennett.
Several participants in this event also marched for civil rights in '64, including Glenda Funches.
"I think we have to remember, we have to go back and reflect and never forget the sacrifices made by our ancestors," she said.
Hattiesburg played an integral role in the civil rights history of South Mississippi.
"It was terrible. It was rough back in them days. Certain places you couldn't go around here in Hattiesburg. Right in here and right over there," said Hattiesburg resident, Leonard Morris.
Younger marchers never experienced the sting of segregation; never faced obstacles while registering to vote. The older generation, those who've been there, will make sure children and grandchildren never forget.
"It is our job to make sure that they understand it. We must pass the legacy on to them so that they will never forget," said Rev. John Cameron.
"We're in a microwavable world, where everything young people want is instantly given. You know, the struggles that they faced then, I don't think a lot of even my peers remember or really appreciate," said NAACP youth leader Derrian Moye.
Dr. Anthony Harris was here in '64. At age 18 he was arrested by Hattiesburg police for demonstrating. Scared to death by the threat of police dogs and officers yielding "black jacks" he was eventually set free by the impassioned pleas of his mother.
"Sometimes it's difficult to stand up for what's right. Sometimes we get discouraged. Sometimes we get disappointed. But please believe me that always, always in the end, good triumphs over evil," said Dr. Harris.
The march Wednesday was the first in a series of events this year to commemorate Freedom Summer 1964. Those activities include special exhibits, speaking engagements and a conference at USM in mid June.