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Freedom Summer Memorial

Freedom Summer Memorial. In 1964, the civil rights movement focused on the South, far from Butler County. But the struggle for equality had some roots on the Western College campus. Before the summer ended, the nation was aware of the tragic fate of three young men who had trained in Oxford. Aug. 4, 1964, the bodies of James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, were found in an earthen dam in Mississippi. They were among 800 volunteers trained in one-week sessions in June 1964 on the campus of the Western College for Women. (Western combined with Miami University in 1973.) The three young men -- two white New Yorkers and one black Mississippian -- left Oxford June 20, 1964. They disappeared the next day after stopping in Neshoba County, Miss. Six weeks later their bodies were found in an earthen dam. (The murders inspired a 1988 movie, "Mississippi Burning.") Ground was broken on the Miami campus Oct. 26, 1999, for a memorial to the civil rights activists who were participating in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, which was aimed at registering black voters in Mississippi. The Oxford tribute -- dedicated April 7, 2000 -- is an outdoor amphitheater classroom on a natural hillside near Kumler Chapel. It is across a street from Peabody Hall, where many of the volunteers lived and trained in 1964. Nearby, a historical marker explains the significance of the site. The project was promoted by the Oxford NAACP and the Friends of the Mississippi Summer Project.

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