(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, issued the following statement today to acknowledge the historical importance of Freedom Summer and how we must learn from it to continue to fight for human rights:
"Last week, members of Amnesty International USA were honored to attend the Freedom 50 conference in Mississippi, marking the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, which was launched in 1964 in an effort to register black voters and confront discrimination in Mississippi, where blacks were often denied access to voter registration information and educated in segregated, substandard schools. Civil rights leaders and activists joined together to fight for their rights, not just in Mississippi but throughout the South. Sadly - 50 years later - the struggle continues in many areas.
"The racism and segregation that served as the backdrop for the Freedom Summer made the mission much bigger than voter rights. Every day, Freedom Summer leaders and activists continued their efforts – even while knowing their safety and very survival were at risk. Civil rights workers were killed, and many were seriously wounded that summer. More than 1,000 people were arrested, nearly 70 black churches and homes were bombed or burned to the ground – all in the name of opposition to what are fundamental human rights – the rights to vote, to equality under the law, to be free from discrimination, and to an adequate standard of living.
"Freedom Summer was a success because people stood together in solidarity. Today, I call on the next generation of leaders to step up and join Amnesty International as we continue the fight for human rights.
"Young leaders around the world have shown their bravery and passion to make change and ensure the lives of all people are equally respected as valuable. From the nonviolent activists who forged the Arab Spring to the members of Pussy Riot who refused to be silenced, to World Cup protestors who called attention to the abuses committed by Brazil's security forces, to death penalty abolitionists in the U.S. who supported the Troy Davis campaign, we must continue to fight for human rights. The struggle for human rights transcends borders, and to honor the legacy of the Freedom Summer activists and leaders, we must renew our pledge to press forward in the fight."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.