Oxford played a key role in those Freedom Summer efforts. Before heading to Mississippi, 800 volunteers trained from June 14-27, 1964 at the Western College for Women, which is now part of Miami University’s Western Campus, to help black citizens register to vote and to resist violence peacefully.In 2000, officials dedicated an amphitheater on the Western Campus to the Freedom Summer training.
It was announced last summer that the church would receive the Freedom Summer of ‘64 award from Miami University, the second year of the award. In addition, the site is being marked as a National Historic Landmark site.
“It certainly was a surprise,” said Jewel McDonald, Mt. Zion’s tour guide. “We are always trying to get recognition for our church.”
Every year since 1964, the church has gathered to commemorate the murdered students who fought to register black voters in the south.
“We hold a memorial service for the students and all are welcome to talk about the incident,” said McDonald, who has been a member of the church since before the fire.
The service has attracted people all over the world, including relatives of the victims and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Lewis received last year’s Freedom Summer ‘64 award from Miami.
An outdoor memorial and historical marker reside on Miami’s western campus in honor of the legacy. The memorial was dedicated in 2000. In 2014, Miami held a conference, art exhibit, and gave historical tours to mark the 50th anniversary of the movement.
“It’s a way to continue the legacy of those who worked to ensure voting rights during Freedom Summer,” said Claire Wagner, Director of Miami University news and communications.
While the award is being presented in Mississippi, a new mural is also being dedicated to Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Oxford.
The mural was organized by Girl Scout Ella Scope and designed by Jospeh Prescher. It was unveiled Friday evening at the Oxford Community Arts Center. It is now installed at 119 W. High Street, across the street from the arts center.