Oh Freedom Over Me
Inspired by the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers during the Depression, Matt Herron sought to create a similar record of the Civil Rights Movement. During the summer of 1964 he organized a team of photographers, called the Southern Documentary Project, to capture the rapid social change taking place across the South.
His team traveled to Mississippi, one of the poorest southern states at the time, where Civil Rights groups had organized to bring non-southern college students to work with local residents to register African-Americans to vote. Advised by Dorothea Lange, Herron, along with photographers Danny Lyon, George Ballis, and Dave Price, captured what became known as Freedom Summer and the movement that surrounded it.
Oh Freedom Over Me is a collection of their work, curated by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Visitors will be immersed in the powerful photographs of Freedom Summer and guided through by Freedom songs and music from the movement. Along the way, visitors will examine the faces of youth who led the effort and risked their lives, the impact of their work, and what it means to be free.
Freedom Summer was not just about voting rights and education. It was about young, middle-class Americans acknowledging their privilege and using it to fight for their fellow Americans' rights to full citizenship and quality of life. It was about ordinary people standing up, speaking out against injustice, and risking everything to participate in their own governance. It was democracy in action.
It's been over forty years since Freedom Summer. Every November, Americans have the opportunity to exercise one of their greatest privileges and responsibilities, casting their vote. Are we all equally able to access this right of citizenship? Are we informed? Are we prepared?