Veterans of Freedom Summer revisit Panola 6/20/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2014

Veterans of Freedom Summer revisit Panola

By John Howell
Hosts for the Panola County Freedom Summer reunion have planned events Sunday through Tuesday, starting with an Ole Miss campus tour and ending with the Young Professionals of Panola (YPP) wind down event at Como’s Windy City Grille.

About a dozen former civil rights volunteers who worked in the county in 1964 and 1965 are expected to return, some accompanied by family members, for the two-day prequel to the statewide Freedom Summer Reunion that starts in Jackson on Wednesday.

Monday’s schedule for local visitors offers a morning visit to Crenshaw Elementary School to hear music by Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. Afterward, host volunteers Julius Harris and Arrece Webb will accompany visitors to sites that became familiar to them in 1964 as they canvassed the county, encouraging voter registration and organizing black farmers.

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Those sites are expected to include the old Crenshaw Headstart building, the Hays Plantation, the West Batesville Farmers Co-Op building, the Edward Thomas home, the Johnson Memorial Building, the Robert Miles home, Batesville courthouse and West Camp M.B. Church, according to an itinerary compiled by Como librarian Alice Pierotti.

Visitors will eat lunch at the old Thomas Sundry on Wood Street in Batesville. Now owned by Edith Cole, the sundry was in 1964 owned by the late Mr. and Mrs. Lamar Thomas, who fed meals to Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) workers and hosted them in their home.
At 3 p.m. Monday visitors and guests are invited to the Panola Playhouse in Sardis for a letters-based reader’s theater, “Facing South: Looks Like More: One Young Man’s Voice in the Summer of Freedom,” based on the letters of former COFO worker Jim Kates written from Como in 1964.

Selected pieces from “40 Years Later: Now Can We Talk?,” the documentary about the 40th reunion of the first integrated class at South Panola High School, will be screened at the Playhouse Monday afternoon.

Monday afternoon and evening events at the Playhouse will also include a special announcement by Panola County NAACP chapter representative Annie Perry and a discussion led by Dr. Henry Outlaw and Carolyn Head.

On Tuesday, the former summer volunteers are invited to the Como library, starting at noon, for the recording of oral histories.

“We will have three teams, led by Americorps VISTA volunteers,” Pierotti said.

“The VISTAs will be gathering oral histories about the events of Freedom Summer,” she said.
Former and current civil rights workers, families and guests are invited to join the Young Professionals of Panola for their Summer Wind Down, 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday afternoon at the Windy City Grille in Como.