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Barnes and... A Conversation with Freedom Riders

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Steve Barnes sits down with two original Freedom Riders, David and Winonah Beamer Myers, and Samantha Williams, 2011 Student Freedom Rider and University of Arkansas student. In this interview taped at Little Rock Central High National Historic Site, the original Freedom Riders and Williams discuss how the Freedom Riders changed the face of equality in the U.S. and the impact it still has today.

TRANSCRIPT

HOST: HELLO AGAIN, EVERYONE. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR BEING WITH US. DAVID MYERS AND THE FORMER WINONAH BEEMER, WERE COLLEGE STUDENTS IN THE AMERICAN MIDWEST, OHIO, WHEN ABOUT 50 YEARS AGO THEY JOINED 336 OTHERS  IN BECOMING FREEDOM RIDERS. THEY CLIMBED ABOARD TRAIL WAYS BUSES OR GREYHOUND BUSES, AND THEY HEADED INTO THE AMERICAN SOUTH, NOT TO TEST THE WATERS BECAUSE EVERYONE KNEW THE WATERS -- THEY WERE TEMPESTUOUS SEAS ALREADY. THEY DID IT TO HONOR THE CONSTITUTION. ACROSS THE NATION THIS YEAR THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL COMMEMORATIONS OF THE FREEDOM RIDESRS. ONE HALF CENTURY LATER AN ARKANSAN IS INVOLVED. SAMANTHA WILLIAMS OF BRYANT, ARKANSAS, A POLITICAL SCIENCE MAJOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS WAS CHOSEN TO BE ONE OF 40 YOUNG AMERICANS TO FOLLOW THE PATH OF THE FREEDOM RIDERS A HALF CENTURY EARLIER. OUR GRATITUDE FOR ALL THREE OF YOU BEING WITH US AND JOINING US IN THIS PROGRAM TONIGHT.

> I GUESS THE DUMBEST QUESTION I COULD BEGIN WITH WOULD BE, WERE YOU SCARED? SO, I WON'T DO THAT. THE SECOND DUMBEST WOULD BE, HOW SCARED WERE YOU WHEN YOU GOT ON THAT BUS? AND YOU KNEW... YOU KNEW WHERE YOU WERE HEADED AND WHAT IN ALL LIKELIHOOD AWAITED YOU.

I WAS SCARED, AND THE REASON I WAS SCARED, I KNEW ABOUT EMMETT TILL. I KNEW ABOUT CHARLES MACK PARKER WHO A YEAR BEFORE DISAPPEARED IN A JAIL IN MISSISSIPPI, WAS FOUND BOUND AND HAD DROWNED IN THE RIVER. I KNEW ABOUT THE LYNCHINGS IN MISSISSIPPI. SO, FROM THE TIME I LEFT OHIO TILL I GOT BACK SOME THREE, 3-1/2 WEEKS LATER, I WAS AFRAID. I KEPT HAVING A FEELING IN THE BACK OF MY MIND THAT I MIGHT NEVER SEE MY FAMILY AGAIN. I'D NEVER RETURN HOME AGAIN.

HOST: WINONAH, YOUR FAMILY -- BOTH OF YOUR RESPECTIVE FAMILIES, THEY KNEW WHERE YOU WERE HEADED AND WHAT YOU WERE DOING. AND THEY WERE FRIGHTENED, BUT YOU WENT ANYWAY.

YES. MY MOTHER WAS -- WASN'T SURE ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON. I HAD TO GET SOMETHING SIGNED BY HER BECAUSE I WAS 19 AT THE TIME, AND I WAS KIND OF DANCING AROUND THE ISSUE. AND MY BROTHER BURST INTO THE ROOM WITH A "LIFE" MAGAZINE SHOWING A YOUNG MAN PICKING HIS TEETH OUT OF HIS FACE ON ONE SIDE, AND ON THE OTHER WAS THE BURNING BUS IN ANISTON. HE SAID, MOM, PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS WHAT SHE'S TALKING ABOUT ; PAY ATTENTION. MY MOTHER SAID, "NO, NO, NO, YOU'RE NOT GOING." AND I SAID, "MOM --" WE HAD A SINGLE PARENT FAMILY IN A BIG CITY, FOUR CHILDREN, AND WE MOVED AROUND A LOT. AND, SO, I WAS USED TO WRITING EXCUSES AND FORGING HER NAME FOR VARIOUS REASONS, SOME HAVING TO DO WITH WATCHING THE YOUNGER MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY, SOME HAVING TO DO WITH A NUMBER OF THINGS. AND, SO, I SAID, I'VE DONE THAT OFTEN ENOUGH. EITHER I WILL WRITE THIS DISCLAIMER AND SIGN YOUR NAME, OR YOU WILL. BUT I'M GOING. AND THAT WAS IT.

HOST: LOOKING BACK AT WHAT WERE REGARDED AS MOVEMENT DAYS -- WE'RE AT THE CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL. WHAT BETTER PLACE TO DO THIS PROGRAM THAN THE CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE. THERE WERE PEOPLE COMMEMORATED HERE WHO HELPED PUSH THAT MOVEMENT, AND UNTOLD HUNDREDS, THOUSANDS OF OTHERS, BUT THERE WERE ONLY FEWER THAN 400 OF YOU ON A REALLY HIGH-RISK, BECAUSE NOT ONLY DID YOU KNOW WHERE YOU WERE GOING. THEY KNEW YOU WERE COMING.

YES.

HOST: AND THEY ARRANGED SOME, SHALL WE SAY, RECEPTIONS FOR YOU. FIRST ONE WAS ANISTON.

I DON'T THINK YOU CAN COMPARE WHAT WE DID WITH WHAT THE KIDS HERE DID. THEY ARE HEROES, AND I THINK THEY TOOK BIGGER RISKS THAN WE TOOK. AND THEY WERE AT AN AGE WHERE THEY JUST -- I DON'T KNOW

THEY WERE VERY VULNERABLE.

THAT'S RIGHT, THEY WERE VERY VULNERABLE. AND I ADMIRED THEM SO MUCH. THEY TOOK A MUCH BIGGER RISK THAN THE FREEDOM RIDERS DID.

HOST: HOW DO YOU QUANTIFY RISK AND COURAGE? I'LL CONFESS THAT'S BEYOND ME.

IF I HAD BEEN ELIZABETH AND HAD THAT MOB WALKING DOWN THE STREET WITH ME, I THINK THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MY LAST ATTEMPT TO GO TO CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL. I COULDN'T HAVE TAKEN ANOTHER TIME OF THAT.

HOST: GO AHEAD. I'M SORRY.

I WAS THINKING OF THE TIME WHEN THE ANISTON BUS WAS BURNED. THAT WAS LIKE A FLASH POINT.

HOST: I'M SORRY, ANISTON, ALABAMA.

YES, WHERE THE BUS WAS BURNED AND THE RIDERS WERE BEATEN WITH PIPES. IT WAS JUST INCREDIBLE. AT THE TIME THE CORE HAD DECIDED, THEY HAD STARTED THE RIDE WITH TWO BUSES.

HOST: CONGRESS OF RACIAL QUALITY.

YES. THEY WORKED. ONE BUS WAS BURNED AND THE OTHER BUS WAS SURROUNDED AND THEY WERE BEATEN WITH PIPES. AND THEY DECIDED AMONG THEM THAT MAYBE ROBERT KENNEDY WAS RIGHT. MAYBE WE NEED TO SLOW THIS THING DOWN, THAT CERTAINLY SOMEONE WAS GOING TO BE KILLED. SO, THEY WERE BACKING OFF FROM THE FREEDOM RIDES WHICH THEY HAD SUPPORTED. AND THE STUDENTS WERE TENNESSEE WERE THE ONES. DIANE NASH, THE SIX STUDENTS, FROM TENNESSEE STATE, THEY WERE THE ONES WHO SAID, "NO, NO, THIS CANNOT STOP. WE CANNOT LET THEM THINK THAT THEY CAN BEAT US DOWN AND STOP IT. WE CAN'T LET VIOLENCE WIN." AND SHE SENT OUT THE WORD. AT THAT TIME THEY DIDN'T HAVE E-MAIL AND TWITTER AND TWEET AND ALL OF THAT. BUT SHE PUT OUT THE WORD. "WE NEED YOU AND WE NEED YOU NOW."

HOST: WHY DID YOU GO? WHAT WAS INSIDE YOU? THAT'S DOWN THERE. LET THEM HANDLE IT.

NO, IT WAS THE BUS BURNING. ALSO WE WERE IN A SCHOOL THAT WAS 90% BLACK. AND WE WERE BOTH LUCKY TO BE THERE. WE CAME FROM IMPOVERISHES FAMILIES, AND WE WERE VERY FORTUNATE AND VERY GRATEFUL TO BE IN COLLEGE. AND WE MET THERE SOME OF THE MOST WONDERFUL PEOPLE WHO WERE OUR PROFESSORS, OUR TEACHERS, OUR MENTORS, OUR FRIENDS, AND OUR HEROES. AND THESE PEOPLE WERE AMAZING IN TERMS OF THEIR DEDICATION TO THEIR PROFESSION. AND MANY OF THEM, THEY HAD MULTIPLE PH.D.s FROM SCHOOLS LIKE HARVARD, CHICAGO, YALE -- ALL OVER. AND THESE PEOPLE OPENED UP A WORLD TO US THAT WE WERE UNAWARE OF. AND THEY TAUGHT US THINGS THAT WERE OUT THERE IN THE WORLD. WHAT CAN I DO? WHAT DO I KNOW? MY MENTOR, DR. LEONORE CARING TON LANE, WROTE IT'S MORE THAN AN INCREASE IN SIZE. THE CHILD IS THE FATHER OF THE MAN. EVERYONE CAME THROUGH LEONORA IN ORDER TO GRADUATE, AND SHE MADE SURE THAT SHE TOUCHED THE LIVES OF ALL OF THE STUDENTS. NOT ONLY TEACHING THEM TO BE YOUNG LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BUT TEACHING THEM THAT IT WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT THEY CHOSE TO STUDY WAS THAT THEY LEARNED TO DO IT WELL AND OFFER IT BACK TO THE COMMUNITY AS A GIFT. AND THEY WERE ALL -- ALL OF THESE TEACHERS LEARNED TO VOLUNTEERISM AND COMMUNITY PROJECTS AND EFFORTS AND THEY WERE TEACHING US. THEY WERE BRINGING US ALONG INTO THE ADULT WORLD, AND THEY TAUGHT US SO MUCH. AND WHEN WE SAW HOW THEY WERE TREATED, THEY COULDN'T SIT IN A RESTAURANT, THEY COULDN'T HAVE THEIR HAIRCUT, THEY COULDN'T DRINK OUT OF THE SAME FOUNTAIN. IT WAS JUST -- IT WAS JUST AN INCREDIBLE ASSAULT. AND THEN ALL OF THIS VIOLENCE OCCURRING IN MONTGOMERY AND IN ANISTON, AND IN -- ALL ACROSS THE SOUTH. LIKE I SAID, WHEN THAT BUS WAS BURNED, IT WAS LIKE A FLASH POINT. IT WAS JUST -- IT WAS AN UPRISING. YOUNG PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY HAD TO -- THERE WASN'T EVEN A QUESTION. THERE WAS NO QUESTION. YOU JUST HAD TO GO.

HOST: YOU HAD TO GO.

WE BOTH -- ALL THE TIME WE WERE IN COLLEGE HAD BLACK ROOMMATES. WE NEVER HAD A WHITE ROOMMATE. I HAD FOUR TEACHERS AND ONE ROOMMATE IN COLLEGE. WINONAH MAY HAVE HAD ONE OR TWO. IT SEEMED RIDICULOUS WE COULD LIVE IN THE SAME ROOM WITH PEOPLE, SLEEPING ON THE BUNK JUST THREE FEET ABOVE ANOTHER PERSON THAT I COULDN'T GO IN RESTAURANTS WITH, COULDN'T SIT IN A BUS WITH, COULDN'T GO IN A BUS STATION WITH.

CHARLES WESLEY, OUR PRESIDENT, A RENOWNED HISTORIAN, AND HE COULDN'T EAT AT THE SAME TABLE THAT WE COULD IN A LITTLE BUMP OF A RESTAURANT IN A SMALL TOWN IN OHIO. MY GOD, IT WAS JUST INCREDIBLE. AND WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE SOUTH BROUGHT IT HOME TO US.

HOST: TENS -- MILLIONS OF YOUR FELLOW AMERICANS AT THE TIME -- 50 YEARS AGO -- LOOKED ON AND HAD THE SAME REACTION AS YOU DID, THE SAME DISMAY, THE SAME SHAME, THE SAME RANGE OF EMOTIONS, BUT COMPARATIVELY FEW OF YOU ACTED. WHAT PUSHED YOU?

I THINK EVERY FREEDOM RIDER WAS INVOLVED IN IT FOR A DIFFERENT REASON. EACH ONE HAD THEIR OWN PERSONAL REASON. I HAD SEVERAL. ONE WAS I HAD -- WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A THREE-YEAR LONG BATTLE WITH MY DRAFT BOARD TO GET CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTER CLASSIFICATION. MY BOARD KEPT ASKING ME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF THERE WAS A VIOLENT SITUATION, PEOPLE WERE BEATING YOU, BEATING SOMEONE YOU CARED ABOUT? I THINK SUBCONSCIOUSLY THAT WAS A THING I THOUGHT ABOUT WHEN I PARTICIPATED IN THE FREEDOM -- CAN I DO THIS AND BE NON-VIOLENT? AND I WAS CONVINCED I COULD. ANOTHER THING WAS I HAD A GOOD FRIEND ON CAMPUS NAMED SHAW. HE WAS A MILITANT GROUP, ANTI-WHITE GROUP. AND HE AND I BECAME GOOD FRIENDS. AND HE WOULD ALWAYS SAY TO ME, WE'RE FRIENDS HERE ON CAMPUS, BUT WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE IF WE WERE TO RUN INTO EACH OTHER IN ALABAMA OR MISSISSIPPI, WOULD WE STILL BE FRIENDS? AND I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT A LOT. AND I THOUGHT I HAD TO PROVE TO MYSELF, WOULD WE STILL BE FRIENDS? WHAT DO I DO IF I'M OUT WITH A GROUP OF CENTRAL STATE STUDENTS -- AS I WAS MANY TIMES, THE ONLY WHITE PERSON IN A GROUP AND  SOMETHING RACIALLY HAPPENS? I COULD WALK AWAY FROM IT OR STAY THERE AND DEFEND. I HAD TO FIND THOSE THINGS OUT.

HOST: GO AHEAD. I'M SORRY.

WELL, WE WERE LOOKING AT NEW EXECUTIVES IN THE WHITE HOUSE, AND THEY WERE REACHING OUT TO THE WORLD TO ESTABLISH THEMSELVES AS THE TRUE LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD. AND THEY WERE IN THE MIDST OF ALL OF THIS GOING ON. AND WE WERE -- AND WE WERE TOLD BY ROBERTS, YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN. YOU NEED TO EASE UP. YOU KNOW, TAKE IT EASY. IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN. EVENTUALLY WAS WHAT WE HAD HEARD FOR 100 YEARS. AND WE LOOKED AT THAT AND WE SAID, WHAT BETTER TIME TO TRY TO SHOW YOURSELF AS LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD AND JUST HOW FREE IS YOUR WORLD? TAKE A GOOD LOOK. TAKE A LOOK AT THIS. AND WE NEEDED THAT. THE TIMING WAS JUST -- WAS JUST RIGHT. THEY NEEDED THE EMBARRASSMENT. THEY NEEDED TO BE BROUGHT AROUND SO THAT INSTEAD OF WEIGHING WHAT WAS POLITICALLY EXPEDIENT AND WHAT WAS GOOD FOR THEIR OWN IMAGE, THEY NEEDED TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT OUR COUNTRY STOOD FOR, WHAT THEY WERE PUTTING OUT THERE THAT WE STOOD FOR.

HOST: THE FACT IS WHILE THEY MAY HAVE BEEN WHOLLY SYMPATHETIC TO YOUR OBJECTIVES, THEY NEEDED A NUDGE. THE MOVEMENT WAS NOT REALLY ON THE KENNEDY'S AGENDA. THE RECORD IS PRETTY CLEAR.

YES. WELL --

HOST: HAD TO BE BROUGHT AROUND.

THAT'S TRUE. I HAVE SOMETHING I'D LIKE TO SHARE. THIS WAS WHEN DAVID WAS IN MONTGOMERY. IT WAS AT THE SAME TIME THAT MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS HAVING TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS. AND MARTIN LUTHER KING HAD THE EAR OF THE PRESIDENT. THAT WAS UNHEARD OF AT THE TIME. HE HAD THE EAR OF THE PRESIDENT. THAT WAS AMAZING IN AND OF ITSELF. ROBERT KENNEDY: IF THEY ARE UNWILLING TO LISTEN TO REASON, THEY WILL HAVE TO SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF ABANDONING THE SENSIBLE RESTRAINTS OF COLD WAR LIBERALISM. WHATEVER IN THE WORLD THAT COULD POSSIBLY MEAN. MARTIN LUTHER KING IS A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE AND MORALITY, THEY MUST USE THEIR LIVES AND BODIES TO RIGHT THE WRONGS. OUR CONSCIENCE TELLS US THAT THE LAW IS WRONG AND WE MUST DO THIS, BUT WE HAVE A MORAL OBLIGATION TO ACCEPT THE PENALTY. ROBERT KENNEDY... THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAVE THE SLIGHTEST EFFECT ON WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO DO IN THIS FIELD OR ANY OTHER. THE FACT THAT THEY STAY IN JAIL IS NOT GOING TO HAVE THE SLIGHTEST EFFECT ON ME. IF, HOWEVER, THEY WANT TO GET OUT OF JAIL, WE WILL GET THEM OUT. AND MARTIN LUTHER KING SAYS, "THEY WILL STAY." BUT THIS IS WHAT I WANTED TO SHOW YOU. THAT WAS EARLY ON. WHEN HE WAS -- WHEN HE WAS TRYING FOR THE PRESIDENCY, THIS IS ROBERT KENNEDY -- THE SAME ROBERT KENNEDY. AND HE SAYS, "A REVOLUTION IS COMING, A REVOLUTION WHICH WILL BE PAINFUL. IF WE ARE WISE ENOUGH, IT WILL BE COMPASSIONATE. IF WE CARE ENOUGH, SUCCESSFUL. IF WE ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH, BUT A REVOLUTION IS COMING WHETHER WE WILL IT OR NOT. WE CAN AFFECT ITS CHARACTER. WE CANNOT ALTER ITS INEVITABILITY AS AN ENDURING POWER OF OUR IDEALS." SO, WE DID BRING HIM AROUND. WE DID BRING THAT YOUNG, NEW PRESIDENT AND HIS WHITE HOUSE AROUND. AND THEY WERE BEHIND US. AND THE MAN WHO FOLLOWED KENNEDY PROVED THAT IN THE LEGISLATION THAT HE GOT PASSED.

HOST: LET ME ADVISE OUR AUDIENCE THAT THEY TELL ME, ANYWAY, THAT WE CAN CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION ON OUR WEBSITE. SO, AT THE END OF THIS HALF HOUR, GO TO THE WEBSITE OR WHEREVER, BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO KEEP TALKING. THIS IS TOO GOOD. I CAN'T HOLD IT TO 30 MINUTES. AS LONG AS YOU GUYS CAN HANG AROUND, I HAVE A LITTLE MORE TIME.

> THEY FELT COMPELLED. APPARENTLY HALF A CENTURY LATER, YOU FELT COMPELLED TO GO, TOO.

I THINK THAT PEOPLE MY AGE, THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHO THE FREEDOM RIDERS WERE. EVEN MY PARENTS. I HAD TO SAY, DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FREEDOM RIDERS WERE? MY MOM SAID, I THINK SO. BUT THEY DON'T KNOW THE FULL STORY. I THOUGHT IT WAS AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY TO GET ON THE BUS AND RETRACE THE ORIGINAL JOURNEY THAT THEY TOOK AND TO SHOW PEOPLE THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA, THROUGH FACEBOOK AND TWITTER AND BLOGGING, TO SHOW THEM WHAT THE FREEDOM RIDERS DID AND THAT, YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THEY PARTICIPATED THIS THAT MOVEMENT, WE WERE ABLE TO GO THROUGH WHAT THEY WENT THROUGH, BUT WITHOUT THE VIOLENCE AND WITHOUT THE -- YOU KNOW, IN A PEACEFUL ENVIRONMENT. AND THEY'RE THE REASON THAT WE COULD DO THAT. AND I THINK IN A LOT OF WAYS IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THAT.

HOST: HOW DID THAT TRIP CHANGE YOU, OR DID IT?

OH, IT DEFINITELY DID. I EXPECTED TO LEARN A LOT, BUT I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW MUCH I WOULD LEARN. AND IT'S ONE THING TO OPEN A TEXTBOOK AND TO READ ABOUT IT, BUT IT'S ANOTHER TO ACTUALLY HEAR IT FROM THE PEOPLE WHO WENT THROUGH IT. AND, YOU KNOW, I JUST LEARNED SO MUCH IN TERMS OF THE NON-VIOLENT MOVEMENT. I HAD NO IDEA THAT IT WAS NON-VIOLENT. I MEAN, I HAD NO IDEA. SO, TO KNOW THAT THEY WENT OUT THERE AND PARTICIPATED IN THESE SIT-INS AND GOT ON THESE BUSES AND WERE BEATEN AND DID NOT FIGHT BACK, THAT TO ME WAS TOTALLY SHOCKING THAT THEY WERE ABLE TO HAVE THAT KIND OF SELF-CONTROL AND IT REALLY INSPIRED ME TO SHARE THAT WITH MY FRIENDS.

HOST: IF I MAY, YOU KEPT A BLOG OR YOU TWITTERED OR WHATEVER. WE'RE OLD. [LAUGHTER]

HOST: BUT LET ME READ YOU SOMETHING YOU POSTED ON THE NETWORK. AND YOU WERE WRITING FROM ANISTON, ALABAMA. THIS CAUGHT MY EYE. "I HAVE LIVED MY LIFE," WROTE SAMANTHA, "I HAVE LIVED MY LIFE BELIEVING THAT I UNDERSTOOD LOVE, THAT I KNEW HOW TO LOVE. TODAY IN ANISTON, ALABAMA, I REALIZED THAT I KNEW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT." WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

ANISTON WAS A VERY INTERESTING PLACE THAT WE VISITED. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT BECAUSE ANISTON, OF COURSE, WAS THE PLACE WHERE THE BUS WAS BOMBED, PEOPLE WERE BEATEN, IT WAS SET ON FIRE. LIKE HUGE GROUPS OF WHITE MEN, AND WOMEN, ATTACKED THESE PEOPLE AND WANTED TO KILL THEM. THAT WAS THEIR GOAL. AND, SO, I THINK ALL OF THE STUDENTS WHEN WE WERE ON THE BUS WE WERE NERVOUS ABOUT GOING TO ANISTON, NOT BECAUSE WE THOUGHT SOMETHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN TO US IN A VIOLENT WAY, BUT BECAUSE IT'S SUCH A STRANGE PLACE TO BE 50 YEARS LATER AND WE WEREN'T SURE WHAT TO EXPECT. WHEN I GOT THERE I HAD A LOT OF MIXED EMOTIONS BECAUSE IN SOME WAYS I FELT THE RESPONSE TO US WAS VERY GENUINE. AND PEOPLE WERE RECONCILING COMING TOGETHER. THOMAS, WAS ON THE BUS, IT WAS COOL TO SEE HIM INTERACT WITH THE PEOPLE OF THAT COMMUNITY IN A TOTALLY DIFFERENT WAY 50 YEARS LATER. AND, SO, A LOT OF IT WAS GENUINE. BUT IN A LOT OF WAYS I THINK NOT THAT MUCH HAS CHANGED. I WAS TALKING TO A WOMAN, A LOCAL WOMAN THAT WAS THERE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN, ASSUMING IN HER 60s. SHE SAID THAT THE TOWN -- THIS IS A QUOTE. "SHE SAID, THIS IS NOT A TOWN FOR BLACK PEOPLE." WHEN I ASKED HER WHAT SHE MEANT, SHE SAID THAT, YOU KNOW, SHE FOUND IT VERY HARD TO FIND A JOB UNLESS IT WAS WORKING IN THE BACK SCRUBBING FLOORS AND THAT THE SCHOOLS ARE MAINLY STILL SEGREGATED. AND, SO, TO SEE THE FREEDOM RIDERS THERE IN THAT TOWN WHERE, ON ONE HAND A LOT HAS CHANGED, ON THE OTHER A LOT HAS NOT CHANGED, IT WAS REALLY INTERESTING TO ME TO SEE HOW THEY REACTED TO IT. LATER THAT NIGHT WE HAD A DISCUSSION AT THE HOTEL.

HOST: UM-HM.

AND WE TALKED ABOUT WHAT WE ALL FELT ABOUT THE SITUATION. AND THE FREEDOM RIDERS PARTICIPATED IN THE DISCUSSION WITH THE STUDENTS. AND WHILE A LOT OF US WERE VERY ANGRY AT THE DISINGENUOUS PEOPLE THAT WERE THERE, THEY SAID THAT ALL THEY FELT WAS LOVE FOR THESE PEOPLE. , AND SO, TO ME THAT WAS SO SURPRISING THAT I'M FEELING ALL THIS ANGER BECAUSE I COULD TELL THAT SOME OF IT WAS VERY FAKE. AND THEY LOVED THEM EVEN DESPITE THAT. AND THEY UNDERSTOOD THAT THERE WAS SO MUCH PROGRESS THAT HAD BEEN MADE. SO, TO ME THAT'S WHAT I TOOK FROM ANISTON. YOU CAN'T JUDGE PEOPLE'S INTENTIONS BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW THEIR INTENTIONS. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOVE PEOPLE.

HOST: YEAH. YOU WENT -- YOU WENT ON A BUS TRIP AND SO DID THEY, BUT YOU DIDN'T GO TO JAIL AND THEY DID.

VERY DIFFERENT BUS TRIP.

HOST: AS A MATTER OF FACT, YOU WENT TO NOT JUST A JAIL. YOU WENT TO THE INFAMOUS PARCHMENT. IT'S A PLACE OF LEGEND FRANKLY.

THE JAILS IN MISSISSIPPI, ABOUT A FEW MONTHS AFTER THE FREEDOM RIDES HIT THERE -- A MONTH, LESS THAN A MONTH AFTER -- WERE GETTING PRETTY CROWDED. AND, SO, THE HEINZ COUNTY RENTED THE MAXIMUM SECURITY WING OF IT AT PARCHMENT PENITENTIARY AND TRANSFERRED ALL THE PRISONERS UP THERE. THAT WAS FINE AND DANDY. THAT'S WHAT WE WANTED TO HAPPEN. WE WANTED THEM TO -- WE WANTED TO BE A PROBLEM FOR THEM, AND WE WERE. THEY HAD TO PAY AT PARCHMENT SOMETHING LIKE $40 A DAY PER PRISONER AND WE HAD 300 PRISONERS PASS THROUGH THERE. BUT THEN THERE WAS ONE PRISONER THAT COST THEM A LOT MORE THAN THAT. MOST OF US AT THE END OF -- WE'D STAY IN JAIL 39 DAYS AND AT THE END OF 39 DAYS WE HAD TO MAKE A DECISION. AM I GOING TO STAY HERE AND SERVE OUT THE REST OF MY SENTENCE OR AM I GOING TO BAIL OUT AND APPEAL MY CASE TO A HIGHER COURT AND EVENTUALLY BE ACQUITTED? BECAUSE WE KNEW WE WOULD IF WE GOT TO THE FEDERAL COURT. BUT THIS ONE RIGHT HERE WAS DIFFERENT. SHE'S STUBBORN. SHE REFUSED TO APPEAL HER CASE. SHE REFUSED TO PAY BAIL. AND SHE WAS ARRESTED ON JUNE 9TH, AND WAS IN JAIL UNTIL CHRISTMAS DAY, ABOUT 6-1/2 MONTHS. AND DURING THAT TIME FOR ABOUT THREE OF THOSE MONTHS, SHE WAS THE ONLY FREEDOM RIDER IN PARCHMENT AND HAD THE WHOLE CELLBLOCK TO HERSELF. HAD NO ONE TO TALK TO EXCEPT JAILERS. AND WAS KEPT SEPARATE FROM ALL OTHER PRISONERS AND JUST SAT THERE 24 HOURS A DAY 7 DAYS A WEEK EXCEPT ON TUESDAY AND THURSDAY WHEN SHE GOT HER SHOWER. AND SHE GOT OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY. BY THAT TIME MOST PEOPLE HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE FREEDOM RIDERS.

HOST: THIS SEEMS A GOOD A POINT AS ANY TO THANK OUR BROADCAST AUDIENCE FOR JOINING US FOR THIS PROGRAM AND TO INVITE THEM TO FLIP OVER TO OR TO SOME WAY NAVIGATE US OR CONNECT WITH US ON THE INTERNET BECAUSE IF THE STAFF HERE WILL PUT UP WITH US A LITTLE BIT LONGER, I HOPE WE CAN CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION. SO, WITH THAT, LET ME BID THE OVER THE AIR AUDIENCE AND CABLE AUDIENCE, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. IN JUST A SECOND HERE WE'LL RESUME OUR CONVERSATION. THANK YOU.

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