Speak Now: Memories of the Civil Rights Era

On May 22-26, 2011, seventy-five men and women returned to Jackson, Mississippi, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. In conjunction with an exhibit to commemorate the rides, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History offered the Freedom Riders and the public an opportunity to "Speak Now" and record memories of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Twenty-eight individuals responded, resulting in twenty-six audio recordings and corresponding transcripts and fifty-six digital color photographs. One interview in the collection was restricted by request of participants. The recordings are not traditional oral histories but are instead recordings of individuals recounting their own experiences during an era of cultural, political, and social change. Topics other than the Freedom Rides include African American veterans, Mississippi Freedom Schools, Medgar and Charles Evers, and the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Speak Now was recorded by MDAH employees Leanna Welch-Dawson and Amanda Lyons, transcribed by Nell Pace and other volunteers, and photographed by MDAH staff, all under the direction of audiovisual curator Celia Tisdale. Partial funding for the project was provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.