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A Freedom Rider Recounts His Harrowing Tale

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 09 Feb 2011 02:01pm | comments
Fred Clark explains his role in the Civil Rights movement.

50 years ago, a group of civil rights activists were harassed, attacked, and throw into the jail for trying to desegregate the public bus system. Today, one of those freedom riders is sharing his harrowing story. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports.

Before a crowd of black and white, young and old Fred Clark explained his role in the Civil Rights movement.

Clark was a skinny 19-year-old in 1961 when he decided to join the Freedom Riders in Jackson in an effort to desegregate the bus system.

"And we walked into the county and would like to get a bus ticket to New Orleans or Canton wherever it was I don't remember, I was just scared. And they didn't say anything to us and Captain Ray walked up and he said "move on and move out the station" three times. Which we didn't. And we were cited for breach of peace and inciting a riot," Clark said.

Clark was arrested and spent 45 days in prison, during which time he was abused, mistreated and even threatened with hanging but he didn't stop.

"You know, we talk about each other if you wasn't active. It was just something you had to do. Like a group creed or something. And we practiced that and got more involved and more involved until the fear just went away because we faced death every day," Clark said.

Clark along with more than 300 other freedom riders overwhelmed the jail system in Jackson and helped to force the de-segregation of the buses.

WJ Megginson is a 67-years old Caucasian man who lived in Jackson during the freedom rides. He says he attended to get a better understanding of that violent time.

"I saw them being hauled into jail. I think I saw in person, some of them driving through the downtown streets. And most of use, at least of my vintage at the time, just really didn't know enough to know really what was going on or what it ultimately meant," Megginson said.

A group of 15-year-old Scottish exchange students also came to hear Clark speak. Bex Moodie says she know about segregation but meeting Clark makes it more real.

"It’s very inspirational and they are like a great inspiration for everyone to completely destroy all racism and segregation against all countries," Moodie said.

Clark says that is the message that he hopes the audience hears and that they will continue the work that the Freedom Riders started 50 years ago.

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Fred Clark explains his role in the Civil Rights movement.


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