CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - This fall's incoming freshmen class will learn more about the Civil Rights movement as part of the school's campus-wide reading program, which came under fire in 2013.
For the 2015-16 school year, the College of Charleston has chosen Freedom Summer, a historical account of the 1964 campaign to allow blacks to vote.
"He looks at and documents the role of the white volunteers who moved to Mississippi for the summer of 1964," explains Dr. Jon Hale, an assistant professor of education and history at the College of Charleston. "He looks at the organization behind it. He looks at the dangers of the lives lost during the Freedom Campaign Summer."
It is part of the school's "The College Reads!" program, a campus-wide initiative that assigns a single book to incoming students and faculty.
Hale says this year's selection is part of the college's larger effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement.
"Freedom Summer does an excellent job of asking very important questions about American democracy."
The program came under fire in 2013 when a book with gay and lesbian themes was chosen.
South Carolina lawmakers threatened to pull funding for the program.
"It was tremendously controversial, and it was a direct violation of academic freedom," says Hale. "They're not going to back down to a state legislature that frowns upon controversial literature."
"I don't think the state really has a lot to say about it," says senior Jay Heck. "I understand they do supply funding, but at some point it is funding for the school to use at their own discretion."
Some students say they appreciate the college exposing them to new ideas, controversial or not.
"We're going to be exposed to that kind of stuff in the real world so why not start now," says freshman Courtney Shaughness.
Hale says the selection process is rigorous and this year was no exception.
"It's a safe book on one hand, but it has a potential to generate controversy as well. Plus, I'm really proud that the College of Charleston selected this book in spite of recent events and in spite of recent decisions by the state legislature to attempt to censor academic freedom."