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Teens Learning About Civil Rights by Following Freedom Riders’ Path

By Daniel Cherry | Published 22 Jul 2011 07:58pm | comments
The teens listen to Jerry Mitchell, award-winning investigative reporter, tell his experiences with covering civil rights injustices.

A group of teenagers from Washington D.C. is taking the route of the original freedom riders. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how these students are getting a first hand look of the changes brought about by those early rides. 

Fatu Drame's mother grew up in Greenwood. She says she's heard stories about what Mississippi was like in the 60's, but to actually be here is a whole other experience.

"It's really different to be in the environment and actually experience it for yourself. Not experience racism, but actually be in a place where history happened. You can read it in a textbook, but being in the actual place you become immersed in the culture and history."

Drame is one of 25 students riding a charter bus along the path taken by the freedom riders 50 years ago.

Onboard the bus are 13 African American and 12 Jewish teenagers. It's meant to represent the makeup of the original Freedom Riders. Aaron Jenkins is the Program Director. He says they're not here to gawk at the remnants of a dark time...they want to experience a true American history.

"For us to know the full measure of that history we have to study the good and the bad. And that's how you know the full story. If we only study the good stuff it would be one side of the story. So we study all sides of it. The reason why it's still relevant today is that we can see how far we've came as a country once we know where we've been in our dark places."

Operation Understanding says their goal is to bridge racial, religious, and cultural divisions that might exist among the teens. 17 year old Elie Goldman says racism might not be as blatant as it once was, but he wants to fight institutional racism which he believes is more prevalent.

"Whether it's the judicial system, or the economic system or the social system. It's experiences like this which will help me develop a further understanding of our society and ways that I can help fix racism and prejudices when I'm older."

Their tour will take them through Sunflower, Greenwood, and Indianola before returning to Washington D-C on Thursday.  

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The teens listen to Jerry Mitchell, award-winning investigative reporter, tell his experiences with covering civil rights injustices.


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