"Stories, Then and Now" Events Past  Events

 Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Events


Stories from Civil Rights History, Then and Now:
Historic First Union Missionary Baptist Church, Meridian, MS


“When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise,” says author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  

On June 23, 2018, current and former citizens of Meridian, MS gathered at historic First Union Missionary Baptist Church to share their stories of the Civil Rights era, especially Freedom Summer 1964, and discuss how those stories bear on today. We came together with a mission of contributing to that paradise. We offer this footage for those who could not be with us.

Part 1: Opening Remarks, Recognition of Honored Guests, Music and Spoken Word Performance






Part 2: Panel Discussion of “Then”






Part 3: Continued Panel Discussion of “Then” with Music Performance






Part 4: Panel Discussion of “Now”






Part 5: “We Shall Overcome”





Attendees Said This

“My participation in this event was very personal. I met Schwerner and his wife the summer he, Chaney, and Goodman were murdered. That same summer, my sister and I were sent by our mother to help clean glass and other debris from homes that had been shot up because the owners had given lodging to freedom fighters.

“The panel discussions brought back many memories of growing up in the 50's and 60's. What stands out most for me is that the fight must continue, and we must come together for the benefit of everyone's freedom. History needs to be told no matter how tragic so that the healing can begin.”
—Gloria Baylor

“Speakers and panelists didn't appear to sugarcoat anything, something the audience could detect. It led to honest dialogue and cathartic interactions between the audience and panelists. I absolutely loved the music and venue. The power of the music and musicians helped connect the crowd to the theme of the program. The mix of black and white performers helped show the partnership among races. The church provided a great place to hold the event since its historical legacy had such meaning to Meridian. I also enjoyed the seriousness of the program mixed with humor.

“People came together in a loving and supportive way to try and understand scars and wounds from the past. Many left the program with healing and understanding that didn't exist prior to the event.”
 —Robbie Ward

“Today’s event was fantastic. I am so glad I was there. Thank you for letting the Meridian Freedom Project play a small part, and thank you for creating spaces for these conversations in Meridian.”
 —Anna Stephenson Watson, VP The Montgomery Institute and Director Meridian Freedom Project



Susan Follett, Co-Host

Susan Follett graduated in the first Meridian/Harris High School class under federally-mandated desegregation. She earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science at Mississippi State University and worked in Minnesota, California, and Oregon. A television documentary about the March from Selma to Montgomery provoked two questions: Why didn’t she know the history of her childhood growing up in the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement? And what might be different if she had known? Her search for answers led her to write The Fog Machine and advocate for the importance of knowing our history and the power of story in helping us do that. Her “Stories from Civil Rights History, Then and Now” events help classrooms and communities connect history to today. Her work explores prejudice and what enables change. She lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and two children.

Eric Porter, Co-Host

Eric Porter attended the 1964 Meridian Freedom School and Meridian High and graduated from Columbia High School in 1975. He earned a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1980 and has worked in software engineering at companies in New York, California, and Michigan where he is currently employed. His US and international travels have given him a thirst for understanding diverse cultures and backgrounds. Son of the late Rev. Dr. Richard Sylvester Porter Senior, who was Pastor of First Union Missionary Baptist Church and NAACP President during the sixties, Eric advocates for lifting up the history of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. He lives in Detroit and has three daughters and one granddaughter.

Weston Lindemann

Weston Lindemann is a native of Meridian and a 2015 graduate of Northeast Lauderdale High School. He has served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He is founder of South Forward, a technology company in the seed stage dedicated to bringing innovations in the application of technology to the South across the public and private sectors. As Meridian City Councilman Ward 5, Weston strives to make a significant impact on the people of Meridian by championing progressive solutions to challenges.

Sadie Clark Martin

Sadie Clark Martin attended the 1964 Meridian Freedom School and graduated from Meridian High in 1965. She is one of the “Meridian 5” who desegregated MHS in 1965 under the school freedom of choice plan. Sadie earned an AA degree from Meridian Junior College in secretarial science and studied communication and business administration at the University of Southern Mississippi. She has worked in publishing, radio and television, and restaurant management in Chicago, Atlanta, and Meridian, and in the family-owned trucking business. In the early 70s she worked with the Southern Regional Council created to promote racial equality in the Southern US.  She is working on a book recounting her days of the segregated South.  She lives in Meridian with her husband and is step-mom to five, with grandchildren and great grandchildren.






10 print copies and a single-use eBook license of The FOG MACHINE and The Hate U Give have been added to the Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library collection courtesy of the Mississippi Library Commission and the Mississippi Center for the Book.



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