Freedom Summer

by Ashlene Charles

Freedom Summer, takes place on August 4th, 1964, the day the bodies of  Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were found in Neshoba County, Mississippi. This play focuses mainly on two sisters, Nora and Carrie who found themselves struggling with their identities after the burning incident. This play was written by Cynthia Robinson, an Assistant Professor of English and Co-Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning here at Westchester Community College. 

photo by Robfergusonjr

During our online interview, we discovered the importance of this story. The challenge between  the two sisters, Nora and Carrie, struggling to find their identity and where they stand in society. Robinson states “ Nora wishes to start a new life ‘passing’ as a white woman and shed her Black identity, while her sister,Carrie, plans to risk her life seeking change and travel to the Deep South to register Blacks to vote. The sisters must question the value of their civil rights and what it means to be truly free.”

We asked Robinson what this play meant to her and she responded, “It’s about the activism of college students (Freedom Summers was about college students). I want my students to know that they have power as activists… that their voices matter… that their voices and actions can still improve the world. I have tremendous pride in this story because it is based on stories my mother used to tell me as a child about her relationship with her sister.” She then states that this play is her “way of shedding light on the courage, pain, and resilience of an African American family. I like that the play is female-driven, and that Nora and Carrie gave me the opportunity to reflect on some complex issues facing what is/was to be a Black woman navigating life in America.”

Robinson’s goal for this play was to allow people “to think about how they are honoring the memory of those who’ve shed blood to fight for the rights of others. I want to honor the courage of the college students (the Freedom Fighters) who risked their lives, who risked their safety, who gave their lives so that others could vote in this country… It’s not perfect, but when I think about what Black people were denied in this country, I couldn’t imagine relinquishing that right.” 

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