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A piece of civil rights history comes to UW-Eau Claire

| Shari Lau

Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may be the most well-known people from the civil rights movement, but they didn’t work alone. Thousands of others worked at the grass-roots level and on the front lines to help bring change and end segregation during the 1960s.

Starting Oct. 5, UW-Eau Claire’s McIntyre Library will host the Wisconsin Historical Society exhibit “Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students.” The exhibit explores one pivotal episode in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the 1964 Freedom Summer project, and the individuals who fought for racial equality.

Accompanying the exhibit will be a month of programs featuring opportunities to explore, learn and engage in reflection and conversation about the importance of the civil rights movement today. These programs will feature local, regional and national speakers who will share their knowledge and experience with the UW-Eau Claire campus and Chippewa Valley community. All programs are free and open to the public.
“Our goal is to extend this conversation beyond UW-Eau Claire to the greater Chippewa Valley community,” said Greg Kocken, head of McIntyre Library’s Special Collections and Archives department at UW-Eau Claire.

“The exhibit and related programming provide UW-Eau Claire an opportunity to share who we are as a campus community,” Kocken said. “We value equality, diversity and inclusivity. These are not mere talking points for our campus. We believe our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity creates a stronger learning environment that prepares our students for life and careers after their education. We also have a responsibility to the greater Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley communities to bring meaningful discussion into the larger public sphere. These issues are not just important to us on campus, but to our community as a whole.”

Events scheduled during October include a panel discussion featuring Wisconsin connections to the civil rights era and Freedom Summer. The Rev. Joe Ellwanger, Jim Sykes and Ed Kale will share their experiences traveling to the south during the 1960s and how their experiences impact and continue to shape the present day. Joanne Bland, a youth activist in the 1960s and co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama, will hold several public presentations and forums to discuss the struggle for civil rights in Wisconsin and how they can inform action for social justice today. Visit the “Risking Everything” website for a full list of events and their dates, times and locations.
Support for the events is provided by the Wisconsin Humanities Council, a grant from UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Program's Visiting Minority Scholars and Artists Program, and community partners — the Chippewa Valley Museum, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Volume One and The Local Store, and JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope).

For more information about “Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students,” visit the event website or contact Greg Kocken at or 715-836-3873.