Stories from Civil Rights History, Then and Now

Panel Events Description


From Freedom Summer to Ferguson, Mississippi to Minnesota, we face challenging times. On Tuesday, February 17, a panel will share recollections of Freedom Summer and insights on progress that awaits. “Stories from Civil Rights History, Then and Now” will take place at the Rosemount Community Center Auditorium from 6:00 to 8:30 pm.

This free program is made possible through the support of the Rosemount Area Arts Council, Dakota County Library, City of Rosemount, and District 196 Community Education, with funding from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Registration is strongly recommended, in anticipation of a capacity crowd.

1964 Freedom Summer veteran Gail Falk, Twin Cities educator and activist Jason Sole, and author Susan Follett will speak from both their own experience and that of the primary characters of The FOG MACHINE. This historical novel by Rosemount author Susan Follett was published June 2014 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a voter registration and education movement. Meridian, where much of The FOG MACHINE is set, became a focal point of Freedom Summer when civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner disappeared from there just days after the program began.

Ms. Falk and Ms. Follett navigated life under Jim Crow in 1964 Mississippi, the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Falk, who taught at the 1964 Meridian Freedom School, will represent the perspective of the character Zach Bernstein. Ms. Follett, who grew up in Meridian, will represent the perspective of the character Joan Barnes, the child of middle-class white northerners, growing up Catholic in predominantly Baptist Mississippi.

Years later, Jason Sole navigated gang life and poverty in Chicago. In addition to representing the perspective of the character C.J. Evans, a young black Baptist woman who leaves Mississippi for Chicago, Mr. Sole will help bridge 1964 to today.

This is an evening that will appeal to students of history, teachers, and parents—anyone interested in learning from the past to improve the future. Join us. Experience the power of stories to provide a shared language for difficult conversations, thereby helping to bridge divides. Engage with panelists and audience around the vitally important and relevant theme of The FOG MACHINE—recognizing and working against the prejudice within us all. 

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

School Visits

In addition to this event for adults and teens, the panel will visit two area schools during the week. They will interact with students at Patrick Henry High in Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon, February 17 and at Eagan High on Wednesday morning, February 18.


Gail Falk

Gail Falk, civil rights movement veteran, heard the call to join the Mississippi Freedom Project as a junior at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA. She arrived in Meridian, Mississippi in late June 1964 and was assigned as a Freedom School teacher at the old Baptist Seminary on 31st Street and 16th Avenue. During the summer, the school had as many as 300 students taking classes, learning about black literature and history, biology, French, and many other subjects, as well as music and dance. When public school opened in August and students returned to their regular classes, she continued teaching at the Freedom School as an after-school and weekend program. Besides teaching Freedom School, Ms. Falk answered phones and typed letters, played and read with the young children at the COFO office on Fifth Street, taught adult literacy, planned a campaign to test area restaurants for compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, encouraged citizens to participate in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and did a myriad of mundane tasks related to keeping the school and office going.

Ms. Falk returned to college in January 1965, but returned to the South for a two-year stint as a reporter for the Southern Courier newspaper. Then, inspired by the work of civil rights attorneys in Mississippi and Alabama, Ms. Falk attended Yale Law School, graduating in 1971. While there she was active in the women's movement, co-authoring an article on the Equal Rights Amendment, and served as a member of the legal defense team for a group of Black Panther party members on trial in New Haven.

Ms. Falk began practicing law in rural West Virginia, where her representation of disabled coal miners led to a position with the United Mine Workers as their black lung disease legal expert. Later, when her first son John Nicholas was born with a genetic disease, she became involved with disability rights advocacy, serving as staff attorney for the West Virginia Developmental Disability Law Project. When she and her family moved to Vermont in the late 1980's, she became Director of Public Guardianship for the State of Vermont, retiring from this position in 2010.

Jason Sole

Jason Sole is a former drug dealer, member of a notorious street gang, and a three-time convicted felon. The middle of three children, Jason was raised on the mean streets of Chicago by a father who was addicted to drugs and an overburdened mother left to pick up the pieces. He joined a gang and turned to a life of crime to gain a lucrative position of authority and financially improve his life.

As a result of his criminal activity, Mr. Sole has been incarcerated in numerous correctional facilities. Yet despite the height of the odds stacked against him, he turned his life around by earning both his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in Criminal Justice. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his dissertation to complete his doctorate in Public Safety with a specialization in Criminal Justice. He chronicles this journey in his book From Prison to PhD: A Memoir of Hope, Resilience, and Second Chances.

Mr. Sole is an assistant professor at Metropolitan State University. He is a national keynote speaker and gang trainer, including serving as a national trainer for One Circle Foundation. Through his firm, Jason Sole Consulting LLC, he offers juvenile and criminal justice agencies the tools they need to influence people affected by delinquency, incarceration, poverty, and other social ills. As a 2013 Bush Fellow, he focuses on reducing recidivism among juveniles throughout Minnesota.

Winning the right to vote for everyone, at the heart of 1964 Freedom Summer, is very personal for Mr. Sole who is currently disenfranchised. His advocacy work for a variety of social issues includes restoring the vote. As an additional connection to Freedom Summer, after first teaching at a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in 2005, he went on to become a national trainer. Mr. Sole lives in Eagan with his wife and two children.

Freedom Songs

The Soulful Sounds Gospel Choir will perform these freedom songs:

  • “Turn Me Around,” lyrics by Mavis Staples

  • “We Shall Not Be Moved”

  • “This Little Light of Mine”

  • “Wade in the Water”

  • “I’ll Be Rested,” lyrics by Mavis Staples

  • “We Shall Overcome”


Seating for this free event is limited. Registration is recommended.

Read an excerpt from each of the point-of-view characters in The FOG MACHINE whose experience will be shared at this event.


2016 SusanFollett.com. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Website design by Internet Composers.