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December 6, 2012

Freedom Summer Revisted at SFC

The Fight for Civil Rights in Mississippi from the Eyes of a Freedom Rider

A cast of mostly St. Francis College students turned the clock back to the summer of 1964 in Mississippi this past Monday for a staged reading of the play Freedom Summer by William Tucker, a reporter and writer who volunteered during that explosive summer as a freedom rider.

“It was a pivotal point in American history. Things changed radically at that point,” said Tucker. “I felt somebody ought to record it the way it really happened.”

Freedom Summer tells the story of the heroic efforts of Bob Moses, a 29-year-old Hamilton College and Harvard graduate, who with other volunteer civil rights workers of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), braved an incredibly violent and repressive Southern society in an effort to register voters and break the back of Jim Crow segregated culture.

“You had a sense that you were living history when you were down there. All of us knew that we were right in the middle of something really, really important and exciting,” added Tucker.

Communication Arts Professor Natasha Yannacañedo directed the performance which included finding a last minute replacement for one of the main actors who went into labor the morning of the show.

“The generation of students that I’m teaching now is kind of disconnected to [the civil rights movement] and I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for them to work with the living history that is our playwright and our composer who actually went to Mississippi during this time and volunteered and helped enlist all these African-Americans to vote,” said Professor Yannacañedo.

Musical Director Dr. Sam Waymon who was also a Freedom Rider and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said every time he performs the play he still learns and feels more about his own experienced. “I’m seeing college kids being educated, being touched, being motivated and inspired by the information that’s in the play.”

Following the performance St. Francis Scholar in Residence Fred Siegel, who arranged for Freedom Summer to come to the college, moderated a long and in-depth question and answer session with both Tucker and Waymon.

William Tucker

William Tucker is a veteran reporter and writer who has been published in numerous national magazines. He has written four books and co-authored four others. His one-act play, Manhattan Transference, was produced Off-Broadway and broadcast on National Public Radio's Earplay series. His play, Founding Fathers, about the Writing of the Constitution, was produced at the New-York Historical Society in 2004. He was a Mississippi volunteer in the summer of 1964.

Fred Siegel

Fred Siegel, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life has been instrumental in bringing a number of timely and provocative events to the College. Past forums hosted by St. Francis College include The Tension Between Catholic Schools & Charter Schools, What Happened to All the Good Men?, Is the New York Times Good for Democracy?, and Young Voters and the 2012 Election.

Natasha Yannacañedo

As an actress, writer, casting director and director, Natasha Yannacañedo’s work spans independent film, radio, primetime television, and infinite plays. She recently played Imile in TWAS’ Massinissa at the Poet’s Den Theatre and Posthumus in Cymbeline with Judith Shakespeare Company. Her favorite plays she directed are 29 Questions at the Shell Theater in Times Square, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches at St. Francis College, and Reconstructing Julie at the Algonquin Theater in Manhattan. She recently served as the Casting Director and played a lead role in Andres Valencia’s film City Park Ranger.

(Photos Courtesy of Natasha Yannacañedo)

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