On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Japanese American National Museum will participate in the National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer, an online outreach program organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Coinciding with Digital Learning Day, the event at JANM will link middle and high schools 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.

Tamio Wakayama was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (Photo by Tracy Kumono)
Tamio Wakayama was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (Photo by Tracy Kumono)

“The Japanese American National Museum is proud to participate in the Smithsonian National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer. We look forward to being part of this conversation connecting important stories of civil rights to the current values of justice and civil liberties today,” said Greg Kimura, president and CEO.

Approximately 200 students will be at JANM to participate in the National Youth Summit by joining in the conversation and hearing from Tamio Wakayama, a Nisei Japanese Canadian who joined the American Civil Rights Movement as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Wakayama will share his story with the students along with documentary photographs that he took while working in the Deep South from 1963 to 1964.

While the story of Freedom Summer is one part of the nation’s ongoing struggle to provide equal opportunities for all of its citizens, it is a story that began in Mississippi. As such, the Smithsonian has partnered with the Old Capitol Museum to present the National Youth Summit from Mississippi and to incorporate the perspective of students living in the state five decades after the youth-led effort to end political disenfranchisement and to improve educational opportunities.

JANM is one of 11 Smithsonian affiliate organizations simultaneously hosting Regional Youth Summit Conversations with local Freedom Summer movement veterans, scholars and youth. Affiliate summit sites enable young people from across the country to participate in the conversation originating from the Old Capitol Museum, allowing them to submit questions for the national panel through the webcast’s online chat. The event includes a panel with experts, scholars and activists such as Dr. Robert Moses, project director for Mississippi Freedom Summer.

Participants can visit http://americanhistory.si.edu/freedom-summer to register, find more information, and to view the program streaming live.

The National Youth Summit is designed to provide students with an opportunity to share their views and debate an issue, and the program aligns with the 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 will also focus on the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future. Classroom teachers and other participants will receive a conversation kit, designed to provide ideas for leading discussion topics in age-appropriate ways.


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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