Activists and Scholars

Freedom Summer volunteers sharing folk dances

Activists and Scholars

Training for Freedom contains interviews from the activists and scholars who chronicle the reality and experiences of the two-week training session at Western College for Women in June 1964.  It also shares the riveting, raw and emotional interviews from the activists and how the horrific murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner brought a new reality to the training sessions.

Carole Gross Colca

Headshot of Carole Gross ColcaCarole Gross Colca was born in Davenport, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1964. After the Freedom Summer Project, she moved to New York City where she worked as a caseworker for the New York City Department of Welfare, and where she met and married her husband. After living for five years in Montreal, working at a Residential Treatment Center for delinquent youth, they moved to Buffalo, NY. She obtained her master’s degree in Social Work in 1980; then worked in the field of foster care and adoption for 25 years. After retiring, she worked part time running foster youth support groups and taught social work courses at Buffalo State College. They have raised three children, fostered many others, and now enjoy eight grandchildren. She currently teaches English to Burmese refugees, and she and her husband spend several weeks each year volunteering in various Latin American countries. In 2009, she contributed her photographs and related materials about Freedom Summer to the Western College Memorial Archives.  Freedom Summer Text and Photo Archive

Nishani Frazier

Headshot of Nishani FrazierNishani Frazier is an Associate Professor of American Studies and History at University of Kansas and formerly an Associate Professor of History at Miami University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Art from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She received a MA and Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. A scholar of African-American history, particularly during the 1960s, Dr. Frazier’s recent publications include “A MacDonald’s That Reflects the Soul of a People: Hough Area Development Corporation and Community Development in Cleveland,” in The Business of Black Power: Community Development, Capitalism, and Corporate Responsibility in Postwar America, eds. Laura Warren Hill and Julia Rabig, University of Rochester Press, 2012.  Along with Manning Marable and John McMillan, Dr. Frazier also edited Freedom on My Mind: The Columbia Documentary History of the African American Experience, Columbia University Press, 2003. Her current book project, Harambee Nation: Cleveland, CORE and Rise of Black Power, University of Arkansas Press, 2017, examines the philosophical evolution of the Cleveland chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality toward Black Power and the chapter’s influence in perpetuating national CORE’s Black Power policy. Harambee City

Tammy L. Kernodle

Headshot of Tammy KernodleTammy L. Kernodle is a Professor of Musicology at Miami University. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music in choral music education and piano from Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. She received a MA and Ph.D. in Music History from The Ohio State University. Her scholarship has focused mainly on various genres of African American music, American music jazz, and gender and popular music. She has served as the Scholar in Residence for the Women in Jazz Initiative at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri and has lectured extensively on the operas of William Grant Still, the life and religious compositions of jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams. Her work has appeared in “Musical Quarterly,” “American Music Research Journal,” and a new anthology addressing the contributions of women to music entitled “Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds.” She is the author of the biography “Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams,” (Northeastern University Press) which chronicles the life and music of Williams, whose career in jazz spans over six decades. She has also served as the associate editor of the three volume Encyclopedia of African American Music (ABC-CLIO, 2011), which is the first monograph to survey the history of African American Music from 1619 until 2010. She also served as Senior Editor for the revision of New Grove Dictionary of American Music.  She serves as the Musical Director for the play Down in Mississippi which premiered in 2009, and for the “People Get Ready: Meditation on Freedom Summer” performance at the 2014 National Freedom Summer Conference held at Miami University.  She is the Immediate Past President, Society for American Music.

Jim Kates

Headshot of Jim Kates

Jim Kates was born in White Plains, New York. He began his work for the civil rights movement a year before the Mississippi Freedom Project when he and a group of his friends from his hometown raised money for Mississippi sharecroppers.  As a freshman at Wesleyan University, Kates joined the Mississippi Freedom Project in 1964 and worked in voter registration in Panola County.  After that summer, he traveled to Paris, France to establish a Friends of SNCC/ COFO organization. Further, he worked again in Mississippi in support of the Movement in Natchez.  Ultimately, Kates had a very versatile career, serving as a schoolteacher, a poet, and a non-violence trainer for various political movements.  He currently resides in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

Dorie Ladner

Headshot of Dorie LadnerDorie Ladner is a retired social worker. Born and raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Ladner first became involved with the civil rights movement when she and her sister and fellow activist, Joyce Ladner, joined the Hattiesburg NAACP Youth Council in 1958. She was the SNCC project director in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1964 until 1966, and lectured at universities, churches and other institutions to raise money for the organization. In addition, Ladner was also a supporter of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and worked in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. She went on to serve as a community organizer for the Anti-Poverty Program in St. Louis, and was an advocate for civil rights in housing and employment. Ladner has also worked for the Martin Luther King Library Documentation Center to help collect the history of people who were participants in the Civil Rights Movement.

Mark Levy

Mark Levy holding poster stating: The Civil Rights Movement is Not OverMark Levy was educated at Queen’s College, City University of New York. He received a BA in Sociology 1964, and an M.S. in Social Studies Education 1973 served as the coordinator of the Meridian, Mississippi, Freedom School during the Mississippi Freedom Project. The following summer he returned south to Jackson to work with a school desegregation project. After returning to his home in NYC from Mississippi in 1964, he worked as a social studies teacher in a Harlem junior high school and later taught third world studies at Queens College/CUNY. In the 1970’s, he switched careers and spent 30 years working for the labor movement, first in the electrical manufacturing and then health care industries as a union organizer and administrator. In 2007, he helped begin a civil rights archive at Queens College and contributed his photographs and related materials about Freedom Summer there and to the Western College Memorial Archives.   Freedom Summer Text and Photo Archive

Richard Momeyer

Headshot of Richard MomeyerRichard Momeyer received his B.A. from Allegheny College, a M.A. from the University of Chicago and Ph.D. from the University of Washington.  He began teaching philosophy at Miami in 1969, five years after he had first come to Oxford, Ohio as a Field Secretary for SNCC to train volunteers for the Mississippi Summer Project.  In 1964, Rick assisted with nonviolent training workshops in Oxford during Freedom Summer. He participated in sit-ins, demonstrations, and voter registration efforts in projects throughout the South.  He travels the world and talks to youth about his experiences in the civil rights movement.

Robert Moses

Headshot of Robert MosesRobert Moses was born in Harlem, New York and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard University. In his young adult life, Dr. Moses was a pivotal organizer for the civil rights movement as field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was director of SNCC’s Mississippi Project. He was a driving force behind the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964 in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which challenged the Mississippi regulars at the 1964 Democratic Convention. From 1969-1976, he worked for the Ministry of Education in Tanzania, East Africa, where he was chairperson of the math department at the Samé school. Dr. Moses returned to the USA in 1976 to continue to pursue doctoral studies in Philosophy at Harvard. A MacArthur Foundation Fellow from 1982-87, Dr. Moses used his fellowship to develop the concept for the Algebra Project, wherein mathematics literacy in today’s information age is as important to educational access and citizenship for inner city and rural poor middle and high school students as the right to vote was to political access and citizenship for sharecroppers and day laborers in Mississippi in the 1960s. As founder and president of the Algebra Project Inc., Dr. Moses also serves as director of the project’s materials development program. Dr. Moses has received several college and university honorary degrees and honors, including the Heinz Award for the Human Condition and the Nation/Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship.

Charles Neblett

Headshot of Charles NeblettCharles Neblett is a bass singer from Cairo Illinois. He began his service in the civil rights movement during his time as a student at Southern Illinois University, organizing sit-ins and freedom rides that took him all over the United States.  He joined a group called the Freedom Singers that sought freedom and activism through song, and performed at the famous March on Washington in 1963. During his time with the Freedom Singers, he has shared a stage with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Harry Belafonte and Joan Baez.   He also worked as a SNCC field secretary from 1961- 1966.  Neblett is currently president and founder of a non-profit organization called Community Projects, Inc., which brings educational programs to the children of Logan County. In October 2010, Neblett was a guest performer for the “Celebration of Music for the Civil Rights Movement”, hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In the same year, he was inducted in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame and was a recipient of the Freedom Flame award in Selma, Alabama.

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons

Headshot of Gwendolyn Zoharah SimmonsGwendolyn Zoharah Simmons is a Senior Lecturer in African American and Religious Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she has taught for 12 years. Simmons was a Field Secretary in SNCC (Student Non-violent coordinating Committee) from 1964-1968 and was on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for 23 years. Her latest project is as a founding member of “The Council Of Elders,” a national group of veterans of the defining progressive movements of the 20th century committed to sharing their insights and experiences with progressive activists of the 21st century.

Janet Smith Dickerson-Stephens

Headshot of Janet Smith Dickerson-StephensJanet Smith Dickerson-Stephens was born in Denmark, South Carolina from parents who desired for her to get a well-rounded, diverse college education.  She came upon Western College through the National Scholarship Service Fund for Negro Students.  In love with the beauty of the campus, Dickerson applied to Western, received a scholarship and began her education there in 1961.  Majoring in English, she enjoyed learning from the diverse and knowledgeable faculty and student body; she even had the opportunity to go abroad as a part of President Herrick Young’s international education initiative.  She reveled in her experience to visit and immerse herself in the cultures of the countries she heard about in the news, spending time in Jerusalem, Turkey, Egypt and Syria.  After Janet graduated in 1965, she entered into a career in educational administration. Most notably, she has held executive positions at institutions such as Swarthmore College, Duke and Princeton.

Bruce Watson

Headshot of Bruce WatsonBruce Watson is the author of Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy. The book was selected for the 2014 summer reading program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  Watson’s book details the Freedom Summer Project and events that followed, which served as a pivotal moment in civil rights history and tells the full story of that pivotal summer — including the role Oxford, Ohio, played in shaping events. “Watson’s book underscores the racist violence that saturated social and political life in Mississippi, the groups and individuals who challenged its practices, and the extensive amount of research, planning, and patience that attended their struggle for racial equality,” While becoming a writer, Bruce Watson worked as a factory hand, a journalist, a bartender, an office temp, a Peace Corps volunteer, and an elementary school teacher.  As a frequent contributor to Smithsonian, Watson wrote more than 40 feature articles on subjects ranging from eels to Ferraris to the history of Coney Island.  His articles have also appeared in The Los Angeles TimesThe Boston GlobeThe Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Yankee, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003. Bread and Roses was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of “25 Books to Remember in 2005.”  Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and The Judgment of Mankind” was a Book of the Month Club Selection and was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award. Watson holds a Master’s Degree in American history from the University of Massachusetts and lives with his wife and two children in Western Massachusetts.  He is currently at work on a “biography” of Light.

Robert Zellner

Headshot of Robert ZellnerRobert Zellner, was raised in south Alabama, the second of five boys born to Methodist minister James Abraham Zellner and school teacher Ruby Hardy Zellner. In 1961, he received a B.A. from Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Ala., with highest honors in sociology and psychology. Zellner was the first white southerner to serve as field secretary for SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Arrested 18 times in seven states, Zellner was charged with everything from criminal anarchy to “inciting the black population to acts of war and violence against the white population. “When SNCC became an all-black organization in 1967, Zellner and his wife Dottie joined SCEF, the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) to organize an anti-racism project for black and white workers in the Deep South called GROW, Grassroots Organizing Work, also called Get Rid Of Wallace. Zellner’s memoir, “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement”, with Constance Curry and foreword by Julian Bond, was published by New South Books in the November 2008. In August 2008, the Library Journal gave the book a Red Star Review: “He tells a story that is sometimes horrific, always interesting and ultimately inspirational about a white Southerner’s commitment to racial justice.”

The Miami University Gospel Singers (MUGS)

The Miami University Gospel Singers (MUGS) was formed by students and faculty members who were seeking to uplift the name of Jesus and spread His good news through the vehicle of song. The choir was established in 1972, and became an officially recognized student organization in 1979.  The student led group of singers is committed to proclaiming and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the campus community and abroad.   They have performed in such places as Chicago, Illinois and London, England.

Banner Image: Freedom Summer volunteers sharing folk dances. Image courtesy of the Mark Levy Collection Freedom Summer Text & Photo Archive