Freedom Summer

NYS FreedomSummer feat
© National Museum of American History

Institute of Texan Cultures Joins Smithsonian National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer

Students connect legacy of voting rights with modern civic engagement

Texas Civil Rights leaders share their experiences with the next generation

SAN ANTONIO – On Wednesday, February 5, 2014, (12 pm EST) the Institute of Texan Cultures will participate in the National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer, an online outreach program organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The museum is one of 11 Affiliates simultaneously hosting Regional Youth Summit Conversations with local Freedom Summer movement veterans, scholars and youth.
The ITC event will link students from San Antonio’s Sam Houston High School and Seguin’s Lifegate Christian School with students from across the country in an engaging program centered on the history and legacy of the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education known as Freedom Summer.
Texas students come to the summit with a unique perspective. Both schools are informed by Texas’ unique political climate and the Hispanic struggles of the Civil Rights era. Additionally, Sam Houston serves San Antonio’s predominantly African-American Eastside. The summit gives Texas a voice in a national conversation with the ability to direct questions to a national panel, based at the Old Capitol Museum in Mississippi.
"This is an opportunity to empower a new generation by building on the experiences and stories of people who shaped the Civil Rights movement in their youth," said Lupita Barrera, director of education and interpretation at the Institute of Texan Cultures. "San Antonio is often presented as the Atlanta, Birmingham or Selma of Latino Civil Rights. By adding stories of Texas’ and San Antonio’s own unique cases, we will show these students just how strong they can really be. The young people who stood up those years ago may have grown up to be their family members, their teachers, or their neighbors."
Texas was a battleground in the struggle for civil rights, with the 1950s case of Sweatt v. Painter chipping away at Plessy v. Ferguson’s "separate but equal" law. San Antonio saw the 1968 walkout at Edgewood High School, leading to Rodriguez v. San Antonio ISD declaring the Texas school finance system unconstitutional. In 1970, Cisneros v. Corpus Christi extended desegregation from Brown v. Board of Education to Mexican-Americans.
Offering a Texas perspective at the Institute of Texan Cultures will be Maria del Rosario "Rosie" Castro, the mother of twin sons Julian, Mayor of San Antonio; and Joaquin, a congressman. Labeled as a firebrand, Rosie Castro has been an activist since her youth, working on the establishment of both the Young Democrats and Young Republicans at San Antonio’s Our Lady of the Lake University.
In the 1970s, Castro was the local chair of the La Raza Unida political party, a product of lingering racial tensions, as San Antonio’s Hispanic population continued its fight for equal rights. She worked with San Antonio Civil Rights leaders such as Willie Velasquez of the Mexican American Unity Council, and as part of a slate of candidates for city office heralded as a "Committee for Barrio Betterment."
Nationally, the summit will include a panel with experts, scholars and activists such as. Robert Moses, project director for Mississippi Freedom Summer. Participants can visit to register, find more information, and to view the program streaming live.
The National Youth Summit aligns with Common Core Standards for Speaking and Listening. Panelists and the audience will explore the 1964 youth-led effort to end the political disenfranchisement of African Americans and race-based inequity in education in Mississippi.
The program also will focus on the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future. Local participants will gain additional perspective on the struggle for civil rights in their communities.
This National Museum of American History program is presented in collaboration with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE/WGBH, which airs on PBS stations, and Smithsonian Affiliations. The project is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Verizon Foundation.
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The Institute of Texan Cultures serves as the forum for the understanding and appreciation of Texas and Texans through research, collections, exhibits, and programs. The museum strives to become the nation’s premier institution of contemporary cultural and ethnic studies focusing on Texans and the diverse cultural communities that make Texas what it is. An agency of the Vice President for Community Services at The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Smithsonian Affiliate, the 182,000 square foot complex, featuring 45,000 square feet of exhibit space and five re-creation Texas Frontier period structures, is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus in downtown San Antonio. Resources for multiple audiences are available at
About Smithsonian Affiliations
Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. More information is available at
About the National Museum of American History
Through its collections, research and public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is currently renovating its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For more information, visit


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