Religion Prof shares story of involvement in Mississippi Freedom Summer

Today, Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons is a professor of Islamic studies in the UF Department of Religion and teaches with African-American Studies. Her teaching is not only informed by years of careful research and study but from her experiences in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

As part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, a student-led civil rights group that organized some of the first sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C., and the Freedom Rides in Mississippi in the 1960s, Dr. Simmons brings her first-hand perspective to her teaching on civil rights, African-American culture and history, and religion.

This summer she will be sharing her personal and professional point-of-view with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program‘s Student Civil Rights Field Research group, led by Dr. Paul Ortiz July 15-22, 2018.

Dr. Simmons will serve as a Civil Rights Movement resource person to the students. The group will be making stops and interviewing Civil Rights Veterans in Tallahassee, Florida, Montgomery, Alabama, and in Natchez and Vicksburg Mississippi.

While in Montgomery, the group will tour and meet with leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group will also meet with Attorney Brian Stevens, the founder of the Equal Justice Institute’s Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial and tour the museum. Simmons will also speak on two panels on July 17th in Natchez and on July 19th in Vicksburg. Her topics will be, “Life history, Involvement in Mississippi Freedom Summer” and the “Continuing Civil Rights Struggle.”