Freedom Riders Tell Their StoriesBy Lawayne Childrey | Published 04 Mar 2011 08:33am |
It’s been Fifty years since hundreds of people both black and white risked their lives to break down the barriers of segregation in interstate travel. When their bus arrived in Mississippi they were arrested and sent to Parchman prison. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports how these brave "Freedom Riders" helped change the course of a state and nation.
The 60's have left an indelible mark on American history. But for Jeanne Luckett, coordinator of the 50th anniversary reunion of the now infamous freedom rides, The summer of 1961 will always be the summer that sparked a movement.
"We had other events happening in '63 and '64 that were tragic events. Then we had the passage of the civil rights act and the passage of the voting rights act in '65. And we had school desegregation so we can say that the freedom riders were a part of all of that movement that brought about the greatest change in social history this country has known."
Many of the freedom riders came together from across the United States leaving families, college campuses and jobs to travel by bus through the segregated south. When they made it to Mississippi about 350 of them including 13 year old Jackson native Hezekiah Watkins were arrested and sent to Parchman prison.
"Sent to Parchman, put on death row for entering a Greyhound bus station in an all white waiting area. That's something that will never go away. Now here is 50 years later, you look at all the changes that’s been made. I mean it's unbelievable of where we started and where we are today."
"We have a black family in the White House, We have black judges in the state of Mississippi. We have an emerging black middle class."
That's Hank Thomas, National Chairman of the Mississippi Freedom 50th.
"Is there still prejudice here? Yes, but the condition of black people today as opposed to 50 years ago tremendously improved."
A celebration will be held in Jackson this summer to honor the hundreds of freedom riders and to celebrate the progress made in racial reconciliation. Lawayne Childrey MPB News.
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