Canton Freedom House Restoration
by Tom Manoff
Historic CORE Freedom House in Canton Mississippi to be restored by the George and Rembert History Foundation
Glen Cotton (pictured above) is heading the restoration of the historic CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) Freedom House in Canton, Mississippi. Cotton is the grandson of George and Rembert Washington who rented the house to CORE despite intense threats from police, KKK segregationists and other reactionary parties in the areas. The Freedom House has always belonged to the Washington family.
The family has started the George and Rembert Washington History Foundation which has as its first project the Freedom House Restoration in Canton.
The project will feature a museum with standard and electronic exhibits. Documents (such as the one above) will serve as “real” history, not selective mythologizing about the movement, revealing the events and the people who made them in as true a manner as is possible.Through such evidence, citizens and historians will have an invaluable tool for future reference and research. Also planned is a library which will serve children in the neighborhood.
The efforts include renovating the “second” Freedom House next door to the original building. This secondary location was also rented to CORE by George Washington when additional space was needed as a storage facility for a clothes and food for the community.
Recently, in an interview with Tom Manoff, a local resident recalled that when his family house was burned down with all their possessions, he was able to enter school with new clothes he got from the “second Freedom House. “
The second Freedom House was also used as living space for civil rights workers not housed in the main Freedom House or in the local community. People slept on the floor for the most part.
Tom Manoff (you are on tommanoff.com) has an office in the “second” Freedom House which also is Canton’s office for Washington Public Radio. The “second” Freedom House (as yet officially unnamed) will be a multipurpose location. In its initial several weeks of operation it will be used in the foundation’s first video production of interviews from local people recounting their personal stories of the civil rights era.
The foundation will approach history with strict and unbiased procedures that will clear up misconceptions and faulty written history whenever possible. At the same time, and mindful that people’s versions of events will often be different than others, everyone is welcome to add their history, ideas and memories to the assembled totality of the foundation archives.
Education will be a cornerstone of these efforts, including the creation of study materials for various ages. The foundation is undertaking partnering agreements with various institutions, among them Tougaloo College, Wisconsin Historical Society and Washington Public Radio.
The Canton Freedom House was the main office for CORE’s activities in Mississippi in 1964-65. CORE’s area of activity in these years included Madison, Scott, Leake, Rankin and Neshoba counties.
The murder of CORE’s three civil rights workers Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney IN jUNE 1964 took place in Neshoba Co., who worked out of CORE’s office in Meridian, Mississippi. Goodman had only just arrived from New York for the Mississippi Freedom Summer.
When restored, the museum will honor the many civil rights workers of the era, known and unknown. Visitors will find the lives of CORE civil rights activists including George Raymond, Dave Dennis and Jerome Smith (among many) documented in various ways: historical articles, photo essays, audio and video interviews are planned.
People will find maps at the museum which show locations of historical incidents such as marches, demonstrations, KKK cross-burnings, murders, beatings and arrests, including incidents involving George Washington and others in the local community.
The restoration of the CORE Freedom House is part of a greater effort undertaken by descendants of the Washingtons to document the important role played by the city of Canton during the height of the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s.
The foundation will embrace history beyond the civil rights movement, ultimately being known for presenting many facets of Mississippi history to the public. These plans include a genealogy center for use by Mississippians and the general public. It is the goal of the George and Rembert Washington Foundation to serve people of all races and backgrounds in keeping with their beliefs and religious faith.
Please do not copy any photo from this page. All photos are copyrighted and you will interfere with arrangements to use the photos in the museum. Thank you.
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