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Washington Semester Award Winner to Discuss Oral History’s Portrayal of the 1964 Freedom Summer

November 1st, 2017 by 
Catherine Tarantino's lecture is titled "I've Come this Far to Freedom" : Voices of Summer '64 based on her award wining thesis "Oral History and the Dominant Narrative of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project Freedom School Newspapers.

The Center for Liberal Arts in the World at the College of the Holy Cross has selected Catherine Tarantino ’18, a history major with a concentration in peace and conflict studies, as the Maurizio Vannicelli Washington Semester Program award recipient for the Spring 2017 semester. Tarantino will present a lecture titled “I’ve Come This Far to Freedom: Voices of Summer ‘64,” on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m. in Rehm Library.

The Vannicelli Prize is awarded each semester for the best research paper produced during the Washington Semester Program in honor of the late Holy Cross political science professor and Washington Semester director, Maurizio Vannicelli. As the spring semester’s recipient, Tarantino will offer a public lecture on her research.

Using a collection of newspapers, interviews, and existing analysis on the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project Freedom School Newspapers, Tarantino’s research looked into the ways Oral History complicates and adds to this crucial time in civil rights activism. She found that the Freedom School Newspapers and the closely linked Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were training grounds to recruit and educate the next generation of activists, and although police brutality meant fear was prevalent during Freedom Summer, the newspapers were committed to projecting a strong and unified image to the public.

“I will highlight the ways in which fear and violence constantly dominated the lives of SNCC activists as they were constant subjects of terrorism,” Tarantino said. “Yet in the face of such violence, Freedom Summer marched on, shaping and empowering the next generation of civil rights activists.”

During her semester in Washington, Tarantino spent her semester working for Common Cause, a nonpartisan grassroots organization committed to supporting the core values of American democracy, especially through fighting voter suppression.

“I was able to interact and work with attorneys at Common Cause who showed me what my life as a public interest attorney could be, and how I could work to positively empower citizens to engage politically and claim their political power,” said Tarantino. “Freedom Summer, while it did build Freedom School with Freedom School Newspapers, was first and foremost a voter registration campaign.”

After graduation, Tarantino eventually hopes to go to law school to become a civil rights or public interest attorney.

“As an attorney, I want to fight for those who the current governmental system is failing. I would love to move back to D.C. and practice as an attorney there as D.C. would give me direct access to our nation’s government. Where better to fight for US Citizens’ rights than the home of our Congress?” said Tarantino. “The most valuable thing I gained at Common Cause was learning the value of grassroots movements and how much power everyday people have. I left feeling empowered with the knowledge that I can affect change.”

On campus, Tarantino is a Holy Cross Dance Ensemble choreographer, a member of the Senior Convocation Committee, the Campus Outreach Director for Campus Food Coordinators, a greeter and host in the admissions department, as well as a volunteer at the Marie Anne Center in Worcester.

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