Much attention has centered on the causes and composition of commemorations, yet research on commemorations' causal consequences remains relatively unexplored. This study examines the relationship between commemorative events and subsequent mnemonic activism through a comparative historical study of two seemingly similar mnemonic projects with divergent outcomes: the twenty-fifth and fortieth anniversary commemorations in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the city notorious as the site of the 1964 “Mississippi Burning” murders. Drawing insights from the social psychological literature on intergroup contact clarifies how members of the 2004 commemoration task force developed a distinct collective identity across significant social divides through personal storytelling, a development that encouraged local mnemonic activism beyond the commemoration itself. More generally, this research suggests that commemorations both emerge out of and catalyze associated memory movements, and that a commemoration's transformative potential lies in its planning process.

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