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USA TODAY free 1961 events debate history

Who gets to vote and why?

Who is standing in the way of progress?

How can we work together to create a more equitable nation?

USA TODAY grappled with these questions during a series of live events featuring civil rights activists from today and the 1960s. The events were part of the “Seven Days of 1961” multimedia project, which spotlights seven pivotal protests in 1961 that helped create a foundation for the civil rights movement and end legal segregation. This sprawling effort was published from September through December and included text stories, a podcast series, graphic novels, videos, an augmented reality experience and more. 

You can watch highlights from the events in September, November and December here:

The events sought to pay homage to mass meetings held during the civil rights era, when organizers would rally freedom fighters with music, first-hand stories of being in the struggle and sermons.

The first event, titled “Freedom Now: How Institutions of Power Fuel and Stall Change,” included a musical performance from Charles Neblett, one of the original Freedom Singers, and a reading from Tracy K. Smith, a former poet laureate of the United States. The panelists included Ja’Mal Green, a Chicago Black Lives Matter activist; Georgia state Sen. Kimberly S. Jackson; Brenda Travis, an NAACP student leader in the 1960s; and Gerard Robinson, vice president for education at the Advanced Studies in Culture Foundation at the University of Virginia. Daphne Chamberlain, an associate professor of history at Tougaloo College, and Deborah Barfield Berry, USA TODAY national correspondent on race and politics, moderated the event. 

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