Vol. 9    No. 12
JUNE 12, 2014

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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Contributing Writers
Eileen Hocker, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Lang Kenneth Haynes, Heidi
Pascual
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                              Freedom Celebrations
Intergenerational Involvement
Naomi and Shari Carter Believe in
Community
As I begin this column, I note with sadness the passing of Ruby Dee. Along with her late husband Ozzie
Davis, composed the First Couple of Theater in America’s African American community. Dee was a co-star
of the seminal A Raisin in the Sun and appeared in numerous films and television shows. Just as
importantly, Dee and her husband Davis were personal friends of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
and appeared at or marched in many civil rights events. Now that Ruby is reunited with Ozzie in the
hereafter, may they Rest in Peace together.
***
I had the privilege of speaking at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s commemoration of the 1964
Mississippi Freedom Summer movement. WHS has an excellent track record when it comes to
preserving the history of African Americans and the civil rights movement. Back in the 1960s, WHS was
headed by Les Fishel, an activist archivist who was one of the founders of what was then called the
Madison Urban League.

What I didn’t know about Fishel was that he oversaw — and probably stayed out of the way of to some
degree — the work of several UW-Madison students who had participated in Freedom Summer and
wanted to archive source materials from this seminal civil rights summer. One of those students was
Gwen Gillon who eventually became a teacher at Wright Middle School and is the mother of Dane County
DA Ismael Ozanne.

These brave students went back down South several times to ask participants in Freedom Summer,
primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana for source documents like hand-written notes, flyers and posters
and meeting minutes. Remember that the three civil rights workers, James Chaney. Michael Schwerner,
and Andrew Goodman — who attended UW-Madison his freshman year — were murdered by the Ku Klux
Klan at the beginning of Freedom Summer less than a year before.

The WHS ended up with the largest collection of Freedom Summer materials in the world. Michael
Edmonds, deputy director of the Library-Archives division at WHS designed the WHS online site that
allows public access to 35,000 Freedom Summer documents at wisconsinhistory.org/freedomsummer.
Edmunds has also edited a book about the archive titled “Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer
Reader.”

I think we all take for granted how history is recorded, like it somehow just magically appears on the
pages of some book that we read in high school. And perhaps we all say at some point, “I know what
happened at such and such event,” only to be contradicted in our recounting of the facts by others who
also were eye witnesses to the historical event. The further we get from the actual event — Mississippi
Freedom Summer occurred 50 years ago — the fuzzier our memories become.

Therefore we are incredibly fortunate that the WHS and the young student activist archivists preserved the
memory of those seminal civil rights events. Through their work and Edmonds’ work to make them readily
available online, we can all refresh our memories or learn about these events for the first time with the
click of a mouse.

And in case any of our readers have materials related to Freedom Summer hidden away in an attic
somewhere, WHS is still accepting archival materials. Edmonds can be contacted at
michael.
edmonds@wisconsinhistory.org.
***
On June 21, 2014, Madison will host its 25th annual Juneteenth celebration at Penn Park on Madison’s
south side. It’s hard to believe that it has been a quarter century. For those of you who may not know or
remember, it was on June 19, 1865 that the last Africans who were slaves learned about the
Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln had signed on January 1, 1863, legally ending
their enslavement. The former slaves burst into a spontaneous celebration that was turned into an annual
celebration that eventually spread worldwide.

Back in the day, a group of Madisonians that included the late Betty Franklin-Hammonds, Ed Holmes and
Annie Weatherby-Flowers and Mona Adams Winston among others came together to plan Madison’s first
Juneteenth Day celebration. The following year, it was only Winston and Weatherby-Flowers who returned
to plan the event and together they kept it going until Winston retired and moved to Mississippi two years
ago. Weatherby-Flowers and her band of volunteers — including yours truly — have kept the celebration
going strong.

This is Madison’s largest celebration of African American culture and history. And during the past six
months or so, Madison has been reminded once again of the continuing need for all of us to understand
African American history especially because we are still haunted by the legacy of slavery — not only
African Americans, but Euro-Americans and others as well. We must have a an understanding of the past
in order to proceed toward the future and deal with the social and economic dilemmas that we face. As I
think it was Dr. King who recognized that our fates are intertwined. None of us can have justice until all of
us can have justice.

So I and the Juneteenth Day committee hope that you will come out and celebrate Juneteenth Day at Penn
Park on June 21st. There will be lots of entertainment, good barbeque, history to be commemorated and
old friends and new to catch up with. Juneteenth is all of our history. Let’s celebrate the freedom that all of
us deserve. Celebrate Juneteenth! Let Freedon Ring!
Rev. Alex Gee and
Nehemiah's Dream