Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
November 1, 2014

THE REAL MONSTERS

DorianGray via Getty Images

What Can Mandela's Jail Cell Teach Us About Leadership?

Nelson Mandela President
TREVOR SAMSON via Getty Images

Theodore Wafter's Lawyer: 'Ghost Of Trayvon Martin' Was In The Courtroom

Renisha Mcbride
Thurswell Law

How Mississippi's Racist Past Is Harming It's Future

Mississippi State Flag
Matt Trommer via Getty Images

No, Being Black and Gay Does Not Suck

Black Gay Men
Hero Images via Getty Images

Voters In 14 States Navigating New Rules While Trying To Cast Ballots

Voting
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Dante Martin Guilty Of Manslaughter In Hazing Case

Dante Martin
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Street Harassment Happens In Every Neighborhood, Even Wealthy Ones

Woman On Street
Petri Artturi Asikainen via Getty Images

A Republican Midterm Wave Will Further Sink Black America

Obama
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images

Lawmakers 'Disturbed' After NYPD's Highest-Ranking Black Officer Resigns

Chief Philip Banks
ASSOCIATED PRESS

There's History Behind Those Halloween Blackface Fails

The Jazz Singer Blackface
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Al Sharpton Calls For Federal Prosecution In Ferguson

Al Sharpton
Donald Traill/Invision/AP

Nelly Reveals Why He's Worried About What May Soon Happen In Ferguson

Nelly Ferguson
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Boyz II Men: We 'Represented Our Race' With Future Artists In Mind

Boyz Ii Men End Of The Road
HuffPost Live

Walking The Streets Of Baltimore With The Other Barksdale

Baltimore
Kyle Reid/Getty

Advocates Demand The NYPD Stop Handcuffing 5-Year-Olds

Handcuffs
Chris Mathias

Man Convicted Of Double Murder In Landmark Case Released From Prison

Alstory
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Problem With That Catcalling Video: They Edited Out All The White Guys

171248054
olaser via Getty Images

Ta-Nehisi Coates On White Supremacy And A Life Of Struggle

Ta Nehisi Coates
Leigh Vogel via Getty Images

It's About Time Someone Other Than Straight White Males Got To Be Superheroes

Chadwick Boseman
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Twitter Account Leaking Details About Ferguson Investigation Was Hacked, Prosecutor Claims

Bob Mcculloch
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Why Black Women Are Less Likely To Survive Breast Cancer

Black Woman Patient
Siri Stafford via Getty Images

Halloween: The Season for Culturally-Insensitive Fashion

Native Feathers
Milk & Honey Creative via Getty Images

Mitt Romney: Obama Hasn't Given The Poor And Minorities Enough Gifts

Mitt Romney
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Beyond Ferguson -- Unrepresentative Democracy in City Elections

Election
Blend Images - Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis for Black Women

Here Is Why 'Redskins' Shouldn't Be Heard On Television

No Honor In Racism
Red Circle Agency

California Health Officials Investigate Illness At NAACP Conference

Ambulance
PNC via Getty Images

Chicago Man Says Police Stormed His Home After He Was Just Walking Down The Street

Arrest Video
NBC Chicago

Cosby Has No One to Blame But Cosby for His Sullied Image

Bill Cosby
Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

Watch Nas React To Seeing An Ancestor's Bill Of Sale Into Slavery

Nas Finding Roots
PBS

Republicans Fear Price To Pay For Attacks On Black Interests

Vote
Blend Images - Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

Zambian President Michael Sata Dies

Michael Sata
Pool via Getty Images

Ebola Appears To Be Slowing In Liberia: WHO

Liberia
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Giants Are World Series Champions!

Giants World Series
Pool via Getty Images

Suspected Boko Haram Militants Attack Another Nigerian Town

Nigeria Soldiers
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Watch This Dancing Traffic Cop Tear Up The Roads With His Sweet Moves

Dancing Cop
WTHI

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

North West Is The Only Skunk You'd Want To Be Around

North West Skunk
Instagram

Why, Eight Years After It Ended, The Wire Remains America's Best Example of Racial Melodrama

Wirehbo1031
The Wire HBO

WATCH
Chris Rock Preaches About The Top 5 Halloween Costumes

Chris Rock
NBC

Bad News For Pharrell And Robin Thicke

Robin Thicke Pharrell
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

23 Things Any 'Scandal' Fan Knows To Be True

Olivia Pope Scandal
Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

What Nelly Tries To Remember About Raising Kids Today

Nelly
HuffPost Live

Why Deion Sanders Will Never Be On 'DWTS'

Deion Sanders Toe
HuffPost Live

Chris Rock Shows A Totally Different 'Prince' In 'SNL' Promos

Snlrock
NBC

Rihanna Gets Risqué For AmfAR

Rihanna
Steve Granitz/WireImage

The Real Story Behind Boyz II Men's Estranged Fourth Member

Boyz Ii Men
Gabriel Olsen via Getty Images

'SNL's' Michael Che Takes Heat For Street Harassment Comments

Michael Che
NBC via Getty Images

Things You Don't Know Your Natural Hair Can Do

Teyonah Parris
Bright Ideas Magazine

WATCH
This Was One 'Thriller' Of A Baseball Game

Thriller
AOL Huffington Post Video

Viola Davis Explains Why The Wig Had To Come Off

How To Get Away With Murder
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

This Is The Greatest Boxing Moment Since 'Rocky'

Tyson
NBC

At Least Theophilus London's New Song Features Kanye West

Theophilus London
SoundCloud

This Is What Happens When Fred Armisen & Ice-T Play Video Games

Ice T
Andy Kropa /Invision/AP

Marvel's Making A 'Black Panther' Movie

Chadwick Boseman
Andreas Rentz via Getty Images

Man Arrested For Pot Tells Cops He's Denzel Washington

Justin Lee Seay
Rutherford County Jail

13 Real-Life Struggles Of Perpetually Forgetful People

Forget
Imgur user: larhavoc

Dionne Warwick: Don't Call Me A Diva

Dionne Warwick
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

That Time Blake Griffin Attended A 'White Party' At Donald Sterling's House

Blake Griffin
YouTube

David Oyelowo Talks 'Selma'

Selma
CloudEightFilms

How Beyoncé & Jay Z Spent Their Monday Night

Beyonce Jay Z Nightcrawler
Mammoth PR

Getting on the Bus, 50 Years Later

Comments (6)


Washington, D.C. - Fifty years ago, almost to the day, 13 black and white teens and 20-somethings boarded two buses and headed into the Deep South.
Some were veterans of the early lunch counter sit-ins in their towns or activists on their college campuses. They set out that morning in May of 1961 on what was planned to be a trip from D.C. to New Orleans, with stops at bus terminals and lunch counters along the way to challenge the segregation of interstate travelers and to test the resolve of Southern racists who clung viciously to their Jim Crow laws.

They came to be known as the Freedom Riders, and the course they charted over the months-long movement would inevitably change American history.

But their journey wouldn't be without pain and bloodshed. In fact, that first group never made it to New Orleans. They faced mob and Ku Klux Klan violence. Many were beaten, jailed and humiliated for little more than ordering a cup of coffee at the wrong counter or sitting in the wrong section of a waiting room in towns like Anniston and Birmingham in Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and Jackson, Mississippi.

The Freedom Riders braved the mobs, the unchecked hoodlums fueled by a hate that only God or the Devil could know. Metal rods crashed down like thunder claps on black and white skulls in equal measure.

"A lot of people will say that we went into the struggle unarmed," said Diane Nash, a Freedom Rider who organized students at Fisk University in Tennessee. "But that's not true. Just as there's that day in the military when a soldier is given a rifle, what we were given is power, energy generated by love."

Eventually more than 400 Freedom Riders descended upon the South, filling buses, trains and jail cells, forcing the nation and its leaders to take notice.

Those ghosts still linger along so much hallowed ground in the South, at boarded-up bus stations and one-time five and dimes in Mississippi and Alabama - towns that fought tooth and nail to keep blacks and whites separate and their ways of life intact.


While many people were seriously injured during the Freedom Rides, no one was killed, but many others would die in the years to come, struggling for equal rights.

"If you were to dredge the Mississippi River, you'd come up with the remains of many civil rights activists," said Nash.

So it was a few mornings ago that a handful of original Freedom Riders, their hair grayer and their steps just a bit slower, stood on a grassy knoll across the street from the now-shuttered Greyhound station, where part of the original group boarded the bus.

They set out on a journey through the South to revisit those days of tumult and give the group of 40 students who joined them a sense of the men and women behind the liner notes and the too-short school lessons on the Civil Rights Movement.

Robert Singleton and his wife, Helen, made the trip back from California to join the ride, still by each other's side as they were in the early days of the movement.

Joan Mulholland, a Virginian, is here too - her eyes are at once warm and steely. She has a head full of regal white hair that is pulled beneath a bandanna on most days. Ernest "Rip" Patton, a Tennessean with a deep, rumbling baritone voice, can be heard regaling students with stories of back when:

"If we had not continued the Freedom Rides then, I don't think there could have been another movement for a very long time," said Patton. "We would have had to get too many people killed."

Over the last couple days, the group made its way through Virginia and North Carolina, retracing the original trip, city by city. They stopped at important sites along the way like Virginia Union University, where many civil rights activists and Freedom Riders like Rev. Reginald Green emerged to lead sit-ins and peaceful protests.

"When I saw that bus in flames, I knew I had to get involved," Green said, recalling the moment when he saw the Riders' bus fire bombed and decided to join the Freedom Riders. "It's really emotional to see that we have students who are interested in learning what this all meant. Does something for my old psyche."

Yesterday, the group rolled into Greensboro, North Carolina, and visited the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

The museum is a converted Woolworth's department store and lunch counter, where a group of courageous North Carolina A&T students led a sit-in that sparked similar movements across the South. The original counter, seats and tiles are still intact from those days in 1960.

But deep inside the museum, there is the wall of shame, with illuminated photos set behind fractured glass of lynchings and lynch mobs and the bloated and disfigured body of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was murdered and dumped in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi after he allegedly whistled at a white woman.

And for the first time it all became real for these students, black and white, whose eyes were wet with emotion:

"The inhumanity of man," said Tania Smith, 20, a student at American University in Washington, D.C., as she dabbed tears from her cheeks. It was Smith's first time seeing the photo of Till, which became a grotesque symbol of Southern brutality:

"For men to have so much hate. It shows how entrenched the system was. It was full blown hatred."

Beyond the hate, evident in the hole in Till's head, and the marks around his neck, where his white attackers tied an industrial fan (the better to sink him in the river with), Smith said the image and the wall of shame also spoke to the strength of those like the Freedom Riders who fought back with nonviolence and peace.

"It shows the bravery of the Freedom Riders and those in the Civil Rights Movement. It wasn't just a fight against segregation, it was a fight against hate," she said. "They fought with weapons of love."



Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Comments: (6)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 1

Add a Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed but they are required to confirm your comments. When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password."

Most Commented Articles

Daily Drama

The Best Clips From TV's Hottest Shows


More Daily Drama >>

Get Closer to BV

  • slider Image
  • slider Image
  • slider Image

BLACK MUSIC NEWS
The latest news and updates on a multitude of music stars.
Check It Out!

BLACK MUSIC NOTES

       

MEN OF MCCAFÉ SEARCH
McDonald's continues its nationwide search to find five community-service minded black men during this year's CIAA tournament.


LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN

       
 

Find a Message Board

Discover conversations on everyone from Barack to Beyonce. There are nearly 50 forums, so click on a category below and find the right one for you.