John Wesley Honors College

During Extended Winter, Freedom Summer Visits IWU

Freedom Summer Film

The Monday before Spring Break, IWU students and community members had the chance to be some of the very first people to see the documentary Freedom Summer, part PBS’s popular history series The American Experience.

The showing, hosted by the JWHC and its professor Dr. Hawkins, was followed by a question-and-answer session with the series’ executive producer, Mark Samels. The documentary, which was shown in an abridged form (the full-length version is nearly two hours long), told the story of college students who rode busses to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to register African-Americans to vote and offer them education in literacy and African-American history.members had the chance to be some of the very first people to see the documentary Freedom Summer, part PBS’s popular history series The American Experience.

The levels of hatred it portrayed were jarring, even though I knew beforehand that Mississippi was home to horrible racism in the 1960’s; watching the documentary helped me to understand facts I already knew intellectually. PBS produced the documentary for the fiftieth anniversary of the movement after the success of a documentary on the Freedom Riders, who participated in a similar movement two years before Freedom Summer.

After viewing the documentary, members of the packed auditorium asked Samels questions about the series, the film, and its relevance to their lives. He was able to share on topics like how they pick the subjects for the documentaries, and even when the audience asked questions that were outside his area of expertise, answers were offered by other audience members.

Though many of the audience members attended because a class required them to do so, they seemed to enjoy the event, and they certainly did not have a shortage of questions. If you weren’t able to attend, you missed a treat, but you can watch the documentary in its entirety on PBS this summer. Though parts are not easy to watch, the film will help you to better understand your country and facets of the world that continue to exist today.