Miami names rooms for slain Freedom Summer activists

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had trained in Oxford

Miami University will recognize three slain civil rights activists by naming student lounges for them near the grounds where they had trained during Freedom Summer in 1964.


Miami's Freedom Summer Memorial includes an outdoor classroom with related news inscriptions on the stone seats (photo by Scott Kissell).

An estimated 800 volunteers were trained in June 1964 at the Western College for Women, now part of Miami University's Western campus.

They learned not only how to register blacks to vote, but to peacefully resist violence that they knew would be encountered in the south. Three of those volunteers — James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24 — were murdered in Mississippi soon after leaving Oxford.

The public may know their story from the movie, “Mississippi Burning.”

Miami already honors the three activists with an outdoor classroom memorial, historical sign, memorial trees and artwork at the site on its Western campus where much of the training occurred.

At the memorial’s groundbreaking in 2000, Miami and NAACP officials said, "It’s important for young people to know the sacrifices of those who fought for a fairer, more just society." 

This year, representatives of Miami’s Associated Student Government suggested naming lounge spaces in three residence halls on Western campus to increase awareness for today’s students. “If Miami University seeks to promote cross-cultural awareness and inclusivity then this must also be reflective in our buildings, lounge spaces and classrooms,” said Vada Stephens, one of the students. The recommendation was approved unanimously by Miami’s board of trustees Dec. 13.

News photo of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney

A news image from summer 1964.

The newly named spaces will be:

  • James Chaney Lobby, in Beechwoods Hall.
  • Andrew Goodman Lobby, in Hillcrest Hall.
  • Michael Schwerner Lobby, in Stonebridge Hall.

The naming takes effect immediately. Signage will be designed and ordered soon.

In 2014, Miami commemorated Freedom Summer with a Celebrating Freedom conference and 50th anniversary dedication. This fall, for the 55th anniversary, Miami and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati co-sponsored a conference, Freedom Summer –Then, Now and the Future.

Student-led tours, presentations and documentaries are among other educational Freedom Summer programs that have been produced.

Next June, when the National Civil Rights Conference is hosted at Miami – the first time it will not be held in the South – there will be a session on Freedom Summer and some of the conference will be held on the site of Freedom Summer.