For the second year in a row, McComb high school students were selected to participate in the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Institute summer youth program. They were joined for the week-long institute at Jackson State University by veteran McComb School District teacher Larry Johns and twenty-one other students from across the state.
The theme for 2012 was “The Southern Civil Rights Movement: The Pivotal Role of Young People.” Students learned about struggles, sacrifices, and contributions that people their own age made during the movement. They “hit the pavement” as they participated in a walking and driving tour of Jackson and Canton where they learned about such historic sites as the COFO Civil Rights Education Center, the NAACP, the Masonic Temple, the Freedom House, and the Medgar Evers Museum.
Larry Johns commented, “The six days of the Hamer Institute were a wonderful experience for my students and me. It solidified the fact that what students learn in the junior and senior high school Local Culture classes have a broad impact. In fact, the McComb students possessed academic prowess and background knowledge that even impressed the professors leading the session. The institute also served as a catalyst for students to seek many more facts about civil rights and their history.”
A McComb student’s summation of the week revealed that “Attending the Hamer Institute was truly an honor and an experience I won’t soon forget. It’s not every day you can meet people who were so involved with the Civil Rights Movement. Similarly, it is not every day a person gathers together with kids your own age who show and have a genuine interest in the African-Americans’ struggle for freedom. The movement, before the institute, had seemed like sort of a fairy tale with fictional characters and imaginary events. But afterwards, after meeting up with people who were actually there and traveling to places to stand in the exact spot they were killed, I knew that the reality was that the struggle was real and that it is far from over.”
This six-day journey through history impacted those that attended in a mighty way. Without a doubt, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer’s legacy continues to empower, enlighten and enhance the lives of today’s youth.