Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students

A Traveling Display

Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students | Wisconsin Historical Society
Photograph of a woman approaching a courthouse with superimposed Freedom Summer logo
EnlargeGroup of young adults standing on porch of house

Freedom School, Holly Springs, 1964

Holly Springs, Mississippi. Staff and volunteers outside the Holly Springs Freedom School. View the original source document here.

EnlargeTwo men holding protest signs walk down a sidewalk past a white officer who is holding a bullhorn

"We Want to Vote," 1964

Greenwood, Mississippi. Two men march past a police officer during Greenwood Freedom Day in 1964. View the original source document: WHI 97866

EnlargePolice drag a young black woman towards a police vehicle

Police Grabbing Girl by Arm, 1964

Greenwood, Mississippi. Police drag away 15-year-old Annie Lee Turner. View the original source document: WHI 97870

EnlargeA group of people sing and hold hands while standing at the front of a classroom

San Padeo Workshop, 1964

Highlander Folk School students and directors sing together at the San Padeo workshop. View the original source document: WHI 2400

EnlargeThe front page of The Student Voice newspaper includes the headline, "Rights workers still missing"

The Student Voice, 1964

Atlanta, Georgia. The Student Voice covers the disappearance of civil rights workers James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. View the original source document here.

In his keynote address at SNCC's 50th anniversary conference, civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte asked, "Why can’t our grandchildren find us?" The display "Risking Everything" addresses his question by telling the story of one pivotal episode, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project, in ways that engage and challenge young people. 

Since 2014, "Risking Everything" has traveled to more than 50 venues around the nation and been seen by over 100,000 people. The Wisconsin Historical Society currently provides this display to schools, public libraries, historical societies and civic organizations in Wisconsin. To request "Risking Everything" for your organization, please email travelingexhibits@wisconsinhistory.org.

To browse the Wisconsin Historical Society's other traveling displays, click here.

What was Freedom Summer?

In the summer of 1964, 70,000 black Mississippi residents, mostly disenfranchised poor people, were joined by about 1,500 volunteers, mostly northern college students, as they attempted to register to vote and challenge segregation. Local police, state government and communitiy leaders fought back, trying to keep African Americans "in their place." Several residents and civil rights workers were murdered and hundreds were beaten or arrested. Widespread media coverage shocked the nation, leading nine months later to the 1965 voting rights act which finally broke the back of Jim Crow America.

What's in the Display?

The sixteen panels of "Risking Everything" tell the story of Freedom Summer in simple language, with reproductions of 77 historic photographs and documents. The display is most suitable for secondary schools and the general public. 

View the complete contents of each panel here (PDF, 21 MB).

A companion book and a teacher's curriculum guide that includes documents on the civil rights movement in Wisconsin are also available (see below).

The Wisconsin Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation, the Herzfeld Foundation, ‚Äčthe Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the Weyco Group Inc., Andrea Brisben, C.G. Schmidt and other donors for their generous support of "Risking Everything."

General Description

8 freestanding, double-sided poly fabric banners, 39" x 87", on retractable banner stands

Rental Fee & Travel

$100, plus transport

One copy of the display is available for rental, based in Madison. Renters are responsible for arranging transport to and from their venue; in some cases, venues may be able to make arrangements with preceding or following venues if scheduling allows.

Proceeds from traveling exhibit rentals support the Society's ongoing outreach programs and activities.

An additional copy of the display is available for rental to groups in the Milwaukee area at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, 2620 West Center Street, Milwaukee. For more information, please contact WBHS directly at 414-372-7677 or info@wbhsm.org.


Up to 4 weeks. Venues may schedule the display for more than 4 weeks for an additional fee.

During Black History Month, duration will be limited to 2 weeks to accommodate increased demand for the display.

Space Required

360 sq. ft.

Dates and Locations

See our events calendar for full details.

Learn More

Additional Resources