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Public domain photo from the White House Press Office, Cecil Stoughton via Wikimedia Commons

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on.

A UMNS file photo

Trudie Kibbe Reed remembers hearing news of signing of Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Where were you during the Freedom Summer of ‘64?

By Kathy L. Gilbert
July 1, 2014 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Did you participate in Freedom Summer?

Where were you in July 1964 when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act declaring discrimination based on race was illegal?

Trudie Kibbe Reed, president emerita Bethune-Cookman University, was just returning from the national convention of the NAACP in Washington. Bethune-Cookman is one of the 11 historically black schools related to The United Methodist Church.

In her words:

“I was a youth member (of NAACP) from Dallas. On the way to the convention, we sang freedom songs and prayed for the liberation of our people. I was in the 10th grade and proud of my struggle in the movement.

“As we heard the news on the radio of the passing of the bill, I wept but cried for joy. Having just left the giants of the movement at the convention, I knew that social justice was a movement about people standing in solidarity for human rights. I felt God's movement in my lifetime.  

“Formerly, movie theaters, restaurants and my schools (K-12) were segregated.

“Later I would be a part of the integration of the University of Texas in 1966-1970. I felt that once we had our freedom, all systems had to undergo changes that were difficult for both the keepers of racist systems and those of us gaining entrance.

“Today as I look back, I am proud to have lived and participated in the change!”

United Methodists were on the frontlines of the civil rights struggle. Some giants of the civil rights struggle such as Dorothy Height and Bishop James Thomas have passed away but many others are still offering words of wisdom and encouragement as the struggle continues.

What words or memories could you share?

United Methodist News Service will post your stories as the nation remembers Freedom Summer 1964. Please send your written reflection, 200-300 words, to newsdesk@umcom.org. Photos are also welcome.

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.