Freedom Riders: Share your stories

More than 400 Americans risked their lives as Freedom Riders in the Summer of 1961, deliberately violating Jim Crow laws in the Deep South. Did you participate in the Freedom Rides or later actions of the Civil Rights Movement, or did you know anyone who was a Freedom Rider? Do you remember learning about the rides and what you thought of them? Is there any issue today for which you would risk your life?

by Paula
In the fall of 1961, I participated in Freedom Rides organized by CORE to integrate restaurants and other public accommodations along US-1 and US-40 in Maryland. We weren't firebombed like the May group, but still took our fair share of abuse. Many students were arrested. Restaurant owners shouted obscenities and spat at us. One guy threatened to run me over with his car, and almost did. I was 17 at the time, and a freshman at the University of Maryland. I recall that we didn't know if what we were doing would amount to anything, but the state of Maryland passed a public accommodations law the next year, so obviously the work was important. Looking back, I can see how all of the Freedom Rides that year set the foundation for the much larger demonstrations, which didn't begin until 1963, with the March on Washington.

by Regina
My late brother David M. Walsh was a 21 year old student at UMass and one of 35 white students that went down to Mississippi to rebuild the Antioch Baptist Church in Ripley. I was only 8 years old at the time so I don't remember much about it. I'm sure my parents were very worried about him. They were interviewed by the Patriot Ledger and I have those articles still. He couldn't say where he was staying and wasn't able to call home often. This of course was before cell phones. Shots were fired at a "Negro" home where some of the students were staying. These "kids" risked their lives to do what was right. My brother didn't go to vietnam. He was a draft dodger. This thing that he did in Mississipi was his Vietnam and I am proud of him.

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