FREEDOM RIDES

Recollections by David Fankhauser
ęDavid B. Fankhauser, Ph.D., 
Professor of Biology and Chemistry 
U.C. Clermont College 
Batavia OH 45255

Freedom Rider Bus is 
burned in Anniston, AL 
(above) 

National Guard in 
Montgomery, Alabama 
(below)

This page has been accessed Counter times since 7 February 2002.
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File "Freedom_Ride_DBF.htm" was last modified on 13 May 2011.

Here is David Fankhauser's Main Page
Send Email to: FANKHADB@UC.EDU

David Fankhauser in 
Montgomery Trailways Station 
28 May 1961 (above). (left)

His mugshot, later that day in 
Jackson, Mississippi.


PRENOTES:  Here are a number of links to items related to my experiences including publications, images, interviews, and a PowerPoint presentation I developed:

Here is the PowerPoint Presentation I use when I give talks about my Freedom Rider Experiences.  Please get permission before you make use of it.
Eric Ethridge has published a book of pictures of Freedom Riders then and now called "Breach of Peace." 
Here is a USA Today article on Ethridge's book.
PBS aired Stanley Nelson's "Freedom Riders" on 16 May 2011, and multiple times since.  Here are some screen captures from the video relating to 28 May 1961.
The 50th Reunion was held in Jackson MS 22 May through 26 May 2011.  Here are some pictures from that reunion.
Here is a moving song by Bryan Field McFarland, inspired by the Freedom Rides, called "Lyrical Freedom Riders"
Here are the lyrics for his song "Lyrical Freedom Riders."
Here are a few pictures I took at the 50th Reunion in Chicago.

INTERVIEWS WITH DAVID FANKHAUSER
Here is an extended WCET Video taped for its "Voices" series in which David Fankhauser discusses his background, and participation in the Freedom Rides.
Here is a video of the Oprah Winfrey Show on the Freedom Riders when she brought us all together in Chicago in early May 2011.
Here is a 33 minute interview conducted by WCET TV on my background and participation in the Freedom Rides.


The following is an outline of this paper.  Click on the topic to go to that section. 
Public interstate facilities still segregated in 1961, feds ignore
Freedom Rides proceed from Washington, DC with minor resistance until Anniston, Alabama
Violence in Anniston, Alabama
Violence in Birmingham, Alabama
Hospitalized Freedom Riders ejected from hospital
SNCC gets involved in the Freedom Rides
Robert Kennedy urges restraint
Violence in Montgomery, Alabama
Original Freedom Riders, battered, disband
David Fankhauser joins the Freedom Rides
"Hiding out" in Ralph Abernathy's home
Planning meetings with Martin Luther King
Freedom Rides leave Montgomery for Jackson
Traveling through Alabama and Mississippi
Arrested in Jackson. Mississippi
Initial time in Jackson City Jail
Freedom Riders fill up the City Jail's "bull pen"
Moved to Parchman State Penitentiary
Freedom songs are crucial to our spirits, but target of guards
Mattresses are removed
"Sleeping" bare skin on steel plate
Screens removed, plague of insects, then we are drenched with DDT at 2 am
Warden is visibly shaken
Delegation from minnesota inspects conditions
Twelve days of  hunger strike ends
Uncertainty about release date
Trip from Jackson, Mississippi to Cincinnati, Ohio
Justice Department enforces the law

INTRODUCTION TO SEGREGATION IN THE SOUTH, 1961.





Racial segregation was the rule throughout all of the southern and in areas of the northern United States  until the 1960s.  Public facilities were claimed to be "separate but equal" by proponents of segregation.   Those who violated these social mores were subject to abuse ranging from beatings to bombings to lynchings.  (The lynching shown occurred in Marion, Indiana in 1930)1.  In 1961, the Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation was still in its infancy, with only a few victories realized (notably integration of Woolworth's lunch counters and, shown at the left, integration of the city buses in Montgomery, Alabama2 ). The federal government had passed an Interstate Commerce Commission law stating that it was illegal to segregate public interstate facilities. However, this federal law was officially ignored throughout the South with separate white and "colored" facilities enforced at bus and train stations 3 . As a rule throughout the South, police not only turned a blind eye to violence against movement people, but were often active participants in the beatings.  Pleas to President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to enforce the federal law were ignored, and the U.S. Justice Department turned a blind eye to these violations, despite pleas to them to enforce the laws prohibiting segregation of interstate facilities.

FREEDOM RIDES PROCEED WITH MINOR RESISTANCE UNTIL ANNISTON, ALABAMA


Credit: Jack Delano,                                            My friends: Wallie Nelson (blk)
Durham NC in May, 1940                                                        Ernie Bromley (hat)
                                                                                                          Jim Peck ("51 stiches Peck...":)
As a way of drawing attention to the continued segregation in public facilities, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched the Freedom Rides on 4 May 1961.  This Freedom Ride was modeled after an earlier Fellowship of Reconcilliation (FOR)demonstration staged in 1947 in which an integrated group planned to take public busses from Washington DC to New Orleans with the intent of integrating public facilities through out the South5.  The picture at the left shows two personal friends, Wally Nelson and Ernie Bromley, second and third from left.  Jim Peck, 4th from left, also joined the 1961 Freedom Rides, and was a target of a particularly vicious beating (see below). 6
[ The identities of all participants in that first FOR Freedom Ride were, from left to right in the photo:  Worth Randle, Wallace Nelson, Ernest Bromley, James Peck, Igal Roodenko, Bayard Rustin, Joseph Felmet, George Houser and Andrew Johnson.]

In the 1961 Freedom Rides, an integrated group of civil rights activists rode Greyhound and Trailways busses into the South planning for black riders to enter "whites only" sections while white riders would enter the "colored" waiting rooms. The integrating actions of these Freedom Riders met with relatively minor resistance until they arrived in Anniston, Alabama on 14 May 1961.  The map at the left shows the route taken. 7

VIOLENCE IN ANNISTON, ALABAMA



These amazing pictures are reported to have been taken by Joe "Little Joe" Postiglione of the Anniston Star.  (Thanks to Fredrick Burger for this info.)  There are reported to be up to 35 pictures he took that day, as the only photograher on the scene.  Where are they?
In Anniston, Alabama, a white mob awaited the arrival of the first bus bearing the Freedom Riders at the Greyhound station.  As it arrived, they attacked the bus with iron pipes and baseball bats and slashed its tires.  The terrified bus driver hastily drove out of the station, but the punctured tires forced the bus to pull off the road in a rural area outside of Anniston. The white mob who pursued the bus, fire bombed it and held the doors shut preventing riders from exiting the burning bus. Finally an undercover policeman drew his gun, and forced the doors to be opened. The mob pulled the Freedom Riders off the bus and beat them with iron pipes 7. The bus became completely engulfed in flames8, and was completely destroyed 9. (Here is riveting description in "The Race Beat:"by Roberts and Klibinoff.)

The second bus carrying Freedom Riders arrived in Anniston an hour later at the Trailways station. The bus driver got off and talked with Anniston police and a group of 8 white men. After the black Freedom Riders refused orders to move to the back of the bus, the white gang came flying onto the bus and beat and stomped the riders, especially targeting white "nigger lovers." The white gang threw the bleeding and semi-conscious riders to the back of the bus, and it left for Birmingham.

VIOLENCE IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

In Birmingham, an FBI informant in the Klan learned of a detailed plan in which Police Chief Bull Conner had agreed to give the Klan 15 minutes after the bus arrived to beat the riders before local police would arrive.  The plan was reported to the FBI headquarters, but no action was taken. The Trailways station was filled with Klansmen and reporters (including Howard K. Smith). When the Freedom Riders exited the bus, they beaten by the mob with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains, and then, battered and bleeding, they were arrested. White Freedom Riders were particularly singled out for frenzied beatings. Two riders were hospitalized, including white Freedom Rider Jim Peck with 51 stitches in his head. Rev. Shuttlesworth in Birmingham was notified of the beatings by a fleeing reporter. 

HOSPITALIZED FREEDOM RIDERS EJECTED FROM HOSPITAL

That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders were ejected from the hospital because hospital personnel were afraid of the mob. Eight cars of churchmen, brimming with shotguns and rifles, headed off to rescue the riders. (This is ironic, considering that the Freedom Riders were pacifists and dedicated to non-violence). Chief Bull Connor threatened to arrest Rev. Shuttlesworth for having interracial meetings at his house. None-the-less, Shuttlesworth rescued Peck from the hospital at 2 AM.

SNCC GETS INVOLVED IN THE FREEDOM RIDES

With most of the Freedom Riders injured, and the danger of the violence escalating to the point of someone being killed,  it was suggested that the Freedom Rides should be discontinued.  Nashville student Diane Nash, a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) felt that if violence were allowed to halt the Freedom Rides, the movement would be set back years.  She pushed to find replacements to resume the ride, and on May 17th, a new set of riders, students from Nashville, took a bus to Birmingham. There, they were arrested by Plice Chief Bull Connor and jailed. These students kept their spirits up in jail by singing Freedom Songs. Out of frustration, Police Chief Bull Connor drove them back up to the Tennessee line and dropped them off stating "I just couldn't stand their singing."

ROBERT KENNEDY URGES RESTRAINT

When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached Attorney General Robert Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders (!) and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Montgomery, Alabama to observe the Freedom Riders' arrival in that city which was scheduled to happen shortly.

VIOLENCE IN MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA

       (Bettman/CORBIS) On May 21, 1961, the surviving contingent of Riders took a bus from Birmingham to Montgomery, Alabama, protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol.  However, when they reached the Montgomery city limits, the Highway Patrol abandoned them.  At the bus station, a large white mob was waiting with baseball bats and iron pipes. The local police allowed them to viciously beat the Freedom Riders uninterrupted. Again, white Freedom Riders, branded "Nigger-Lovers," were singled out for particularly brutal beatings.  There is a famous picture of Jim Zwerg with blood running all down his suit. Justice Department official Seigenthaler was beaten and left unconscious lying in the street. Ambulances, manned by white attendents, refused to take the wounded to the hospital. Brave local blacks finally rescued them. A number of the Freedom Riders were hospitalized. 

ORIGINAL FREEDOM RIDERS DISBAND

The remainder of the Freedom Riders were injured and battered, and CORE and felt that they could not continue the Freedom Ride, and elected to fly them to New Orleans where they disbanded (ironically on the 7th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education). At this point, SNCC felt more than ever that the Freedom Rides should continue. Again, Diane Nash of SNCC played a major role in salvaging the Freedom rides when she sent out call to campuses around the eastern United States for volunteers to come to join the Freedom Ride to keep the demonstration going. 

DAVID FANKHAUSER JOINS THE FREEDOM RIDES

I (David Fankhauser) was a 19 year old Chemistry student at Central State College (CSC) in Wilberforce, Ohio when the call from Diane Nash for volunteers to replace hospitalized and injured Freedom Riders ("fresh troops") arrived. To look my best as a member of the movement, I shaved my beard, had my mother cut my hair, and put on my best clothes.  On Wednesday 24 May 1961, I, along with Dave Myers, another (white) CSC student, flew into Montgomery Alabama to join the Freedom Rides.

"HIDING OUT" IN RALPH ABERNATHY'S HOME

We were whisked from the airport to Rev. Ralph Abernathy's house, and immediately told to keep away from the windows, because knowledge of whites staying in a black home could cause us to be targeted by the Klan.  Rev. Abernathy worked very closely with Martin Luther King, Jr., and because of his civil rights activities, had already had his home bombed.  Threats continued to pour in. Dr. King who had become the Chairman of the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee, and Rev. Abernathy opened his home to strategy meetings.  The night of our arrival in Montgomery, we held a planning meeting with Drs. King and Abernathy. A group from Yale, including Rev. William Sloan Coffin and a group of divinity students was soon to arrive to join the rides. For maximum effect, it was decided that the Yale group would go as the next group, and Dave Myers and I were to wait until enough volunteers had amassed for the following busload. Meanwhile, Attorney General Kennedy had called out the National Guard to guard the bus stations, and the decision was finally made at the local level that state police would prevent additional major violence. The Yale group was bussed to Jackson, (I believe on Friday 26 May) where they were arrested and bailed out. We were relieved to hear that there was no violence.

PLANNING MEETINGS WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING

Dr. King held another planning meeting at which we developed a new strategy.  We saw that authorities in Jackson, Mississippi were intent on arresting all Freedom Riders who integrated the bus stations.  Our new plan called for refusing bail, and filling the jails with Freedom Riders. Following our arrest, we would have 40 days in which to enter plea. We would stay in jail those 40 days and then bail out.

MEETING WHITE VOLUNTEERS AT TRAIN STATION

Dave Myers and I remained in Dr. Abernathy's home for the next several days. Since we were the only white Freedom Riders at this early stage, we were sent to meet new (white) riders coming into the train station. There was increasing concern about blacks picking up whites. Waiting for new volunteers to arrive at the train station was tense, especially every time a policeman came by, but we were able to meet the new Riders and escort them to safe houses uneventfully.

FREEDOM RIDES LEAVE MONTGOMERY FOR JACKSON

 

 
Sunday 28 May, we got up at dawn and were driven to the Trailways Bus Station. A large contingent of National Guard were posted outside of the bus station to prevent the KKK and other local white supremacists from attacking the Freedom Riders. We entered and successfully integrated the Montgomery Trailways station, and after twenty to thirty minutes, boarded a bus bound from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi . A large contingent of Alabama State Police cars were stationed at the bus terminal, and as the bus left the terminal, the State Police surrounded it, forming an escort. The governor and local officials had decided that Alabama was no longer going to occupy the front pages with pictures of rioting whites beating up non-violent Freedom Riders. This is a view from inside the Montgomery bus station.
In the upper right image, the seated Freedom Riders are, from L to R:  David Fankhauser (reading a newspaper), Allen Carson (reading a book), David Myers, my colleague from Central State College, Pauline Knight (ticket in hand) and Franklin Hunt.   Dr. King saw us off at the station.

Today, viewing the images of the Freedom Riders in the stations, I am amused that I was (pretending to be absorbed in) reading a newspaper. 

TRAVELING THROUGH ALABAMA AND MISSISSIPPI

 

After boarding the bus for Jackson, the bus pulled out into the massive police presence which was cordoning off the bus station. Leaving Montgomery, we traveled through rural Alabama with a State Highway patrol escort in front and behind. At each station we came to during the entire six hour trip to Jackson Mississippi, the police prevented us from disembarking and only persons with tickets were allowed off. Luckily, we had a rest room on the bus. When we crossed the state line from Alabama into Mississippi, the Mississippi State Police took up the guard patrol. Apparently, the news had spread through Mississippi as we began to see crowds of hostile whites at the stations we passed. As we approached the Jackson Trailways Bus Station, there was a large hostile crowd of whites cordoned away from the station itself, and a large show of police surrounded the bus as it stopped. Disembarking from the bus, we passed through a double column of police to get to the waiting rooms, the black Freedom Riders entered the "Whites Only" waiting room, and the two of us who were white (Dave Myers and myself) entered the "Colored" waiting room. Not surprisingly, the "Colored" waiting room was small, dingy, with wooden benches, very primitive compared with the spacious, well appointed white waiting room with cushioned seats.   So much for "separate but equal..."

ARRESTED IN JACKSON. MISSISSIPPI

 
  Arrests in Jackson, 28 May 1961 
In the far left image, that is Larry Hunter being arrested, Albert Lee Dunn has already been arrested (leaning over to the left), I am seated pretending to read and David Myers is behind me to the right.

I sat down on the bench in the "Colored" waiting room, and was soon approached by a policeman who announced: "Y'all have to move on." I asked why, and he responded with the same "Y'all have to move on." After I again asked why, he then announced "Y'all under arrest."  Here is the arrest record from 28 May 1961.

INITIAL TIME IN JACKSON CITY JAIL

 

We were funneled back out through the same police-line gauntlet into waiting paddy wagons, and taken to jail. The blacks were sent to the County Jail, and us sole two whites to the City Jail. The 'accommodations' in these two jails were strikingly different: the Jackson City Jail was relatively modern, had a decent air circulation (not air conditioning), while the Hines County Jail had all the luxury of the 19th century. Blacks were house in the third (top) floor and the intense heat was reported to be stifling. 

(Here is a picture of the City Jail I took in 1989.)  We two whites were placed in solitary confinement for the first 24 hours, but the next day, as additional whites had arrived on a second  bus, we were moved into the "bull pen," a large double cell which had sixteen beds in bunks and a picnic-style table at which to eat. Some of the newly arrived white Freedom Riders were allowed to bring in books (yay! something to read !), and we were able to socialize, although we were never allowed to leave the cell for exercise, etc. The windows of the bull pen are the last three in the far third floor of this picture. 

INTERVIEW BY WESTBROOK PEGLER

The one time I was permitted to leave the bull pen was to be taken to meet with a reporter. (I later found out he was Westbrook Pegler, an extreme right-wing reporter who was given special access to the Freedom Riders with the purpose of discrediting the demonstration.)  After a few apparently innocuous questions, he leaned close and shot the question "Do you believe in money?" I didn't understand the point, and he asked it again. I launched into a philosophical discussion of the need for some means of exchange, etc. He cut me off with a wave of the hand and called for the guard. I later learned that he was convinced that the Freedom Rides were nothing more than a Communist conspiracy, and since the Communists didn't believe in money, he could trip me up by getting me to acknowledge that I didn't believe in it.  Here is a link to the article that Wesbrook Pegler wrote.

FREEDOM RIDERS FILL UP THE CITY JAIL'S "BULL PEN", WE BEGIN A HUNGER STRIKE

The bull pen continued to fill, and after about a week, was filled to capacity. We were still hoping that Bobby Kennedy would issue an injunction enforcing the Federal law, and ordering local police not to interfere with interstate transportation. We decided that more moral pressure could be brought if we embarked on a hunger strike in jail. We stopped eating any food, and drank only water. After five days of hunger strike, guards came in and told us to get our things together, that we were being moved. It turned out that we had been successful at filling both the city and county jail to capacity, that they were getting bad press about the hunger strike, and so they elected to move us to the Mississippi Delta's infamous "Parchman Farm," the State Penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi. This prison farm is widely referred to in the Blues as "the County Farm," and is the subject of the well-known folk song "Midnight Special." We were loaded onto a gray bus with metal seats and bars on the windows and were bussed the 140 miles into the delta to Parchman. I remember entering through several high razor wire gates with watch towers. Guards stood by with rifles, and prisoners labored in the thousand acres of fields. I was actually looking forward to see what it would be like to "chop cotton" the fields, clothed in black and white prison garb, with the rifle-bearing guards on horseback overseeing us. But that was not what was waiting for us.

MOVED TO PARCHMAN PENITENTIARY
 
Parchman Entrance Built in 1954
Parchman Historic Plaque

 Maximum Security Unit Floor Plan

Cell in Maximum Security Unit

 

We were driven in our gray bus into the inner sanctum of the penitentiary, to the Maximum Security Unit (MSU). This is the building where death row and the electric chair were housed, and where the most violent and incorrigible prisoners were housed. 

We were completely stripped, and given only underwear to wear: a tee shirt and undershorts. Our cells were arranged in a long row, all facing a single hallway with slit windows in the opposite wall about seven feet above the floor. What would have been the first cell was a shower. The whites were placed in the first few cells, the blacks the rest, and additional Freedom Riders housed on the other side of the wing of MSU. 

In our cells, we were given a bible, an aluminum cup and a tooth brush. The cell measured 6 x 8 feet with a toilet and sink on the back wall, and a bunk bed. [Note in the image taken in 2011, the bunk beds are removed, and stainless commode/sink installed.]  We were permitted one shower per week, and no mail was allowed. The policy in the maximum security block was to keep lights on 24 hours a day.  The light fixture served a double purpose and allowed observation into the cells by the guards from the catwalk between the two rows of cells.

FREEDOM SONGS ARE CRUCIAL TO OUR SPIRITS

We continued our hunger strike. We kept up our spirits by singing Freedom songs, many with Gospel roots.  Without a doubt, spirited singing of these songs were the high point of our experience at Parchman.  Here is a list of the ones I can remember:
 
 
We Shall Overcome 
Michael Row Your Boat Ashore 
My Dog Loves Your Dog 
Let My People Go 
Gospel Plow 
I'm Travelin' 
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize 
This Little Light of Mine 
If I Had a Hammer 
Which Side Are You On ?
Oh Freedom 
Welcome Table
We Are Soldiers in the Army 
Freedom Rider Special (Midnight Special) 
(See the little baby...) 
Everybody Sing (Freedom) 
We Shall not be Moved 
Get Your Rights, Jack  (tune of Hit the Road Jack)
Oh Mary don't you weep 
If You Ever Go to Jackson. 
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round 
Come and Go With Me to That Land 
Certainly, Certainly, Certainly Lord 
I'm On My Way to Freedom Land 
I'm So Glad 
Woke This Morning With My Mind Staying On Freedom 
This May Be the Last Time 
We Shall Not Be Moved 
Down By the Riverside 

MATTRESSES ARE REMOVED

Our singing went on for hours and hours a day. Several times the guards (affectionately known as "screws") ordered us to shut up, which caused us to sing louder. Finally, the Warden came in and said we had to stop singing, that it was bothering the cooks. This was hilarious to us, since the cooks were black trustees who clearly were getting a kick out of our spirit and defiance. He announced that if we did not stop singing, that he would take away our tooth brushes. We sang louder. Out went toothbrushes. We kept singing. He ordered that our bibles be taken, we sang louder. Bibles gone.  If we didn't stop singing, he would have our mattresses and bedding taken out.  We sang with even more gusto. They came to take the mattresses, and some prisoners who tried to hold on to their mattresses had "wrist breakers" applied to them. These are "handling" devices with a metal strap with a leverage handle that tightens the strap around the wrist. The combination of tightness and leverage makes it impossible to resist its action, and has resulted in many a wrist to be broken in prison.

"SLEEPING" BARE SKIN ON STEEL PLATE

Unfortunately, during that day prior to our mattresses being hauled out, I had removed my tee shirt.  When my bedding was removed, so was my tee shirt, leaving me in nothing by undershorts. Understand that the bunk beds were constructed of 1/4 inch steel plates into which were drilled numerous 1 inch holes for ventilation. Wearing only my briefs, lying with bare skin on the cold perforated steel plate proved impossible to sleep. While the days were hot, the nights were cold.

SCREENS REMOVED, PLAGUE OF INSECTS, THEN WE ARE DRENCHED WITH DDT AT 2 AM
 
Maximum Security Unit Cell Block Behind bars again after 50 years...
 We were still on hunger strike, and continued singing our freedom songs. The guards became ever more hostile and threatening, banging on our bars with billy clubs. One night, just at dusk, workers came by and removed the screens from all the windows. In Mississippi in June, there are huge number of night insects and especially voracious mosquitoes. Remember that the lights are on in the cells 24 hours a day. Clouds of mosquitoes were a kind of biological torture which none of us had foreseen. We were asked if we would agree to stop our singing, "or else." We kept singing. The insects came in in droves, and we had no protection what-so-ever. 

The "or else" came at the 2 AM shift change. A guard came in and said "Why, look at all them bugs! We're gonna hafta spray!" Shortly thereafter, we heard what sounded like a large diesel truck pull up outside the cell block, and what looked like a fire hose was passed in through on of the high windows. As the engine powered up outside, we were hit with a powerful spray of DDT.  Being trapped in our cells with no protection, our bodies and every inch of our cells were drenched with the eye-stinging, skin-burning insecticide.

WARDEN IS VISIBLY SHAKEN

The next morning, the warden showed up again. He said we had gotten off on the wrong foot, and that we should be able to work something out. He smoked a pipe, and I saw that as he tried to fill it just outside of my cell, he was shaking so badly that the pipe tobacco was falling to the floor. Something seemed strange. He said that we would be given back our mattresses, our bedding, our bibles and our toothbrushes. In return, could we just try to keep the singing down a little, and to limit the times during which we sang?

DELEGATION FROM MINNESOTA INSPECTS CONDITIONS

Later that day, they started shuffling Freedom Riders around. It turned out that they moved all of the persons from Minnesota to the near end of the cell block, cells 2, 3 and 4. I was in 5. The reason for the change in tone now became apparent.  A delegation sent by the governor of Minnesota had arrived to investigate conditions in the prison. They were brought in, and two guards prevented them from going past cell 4. From what I heard, I felt that the Minnesotans were minimizing the seriousness of the mistreatment we had received, for instance failing to mention the DDT spraying incident. I called over to one member of the delegation, suggesting that he tour the rest of the cell block and talk with the rest of the Freedom Riders. The guard said that was not allowed, and they had to limit their conversation with Minnesotans. I called to the delegation that I was sure that some of the other Freedom Riders would have information they should hear. The delegate said that he would have to report that the prison officials were uncooperative if they did not allow the delegation to interview all of the Freedom Riders about the conditions and the treatment of the Freedom Riders.

The Minnesota delegation was finally permitted to interview all of the Freedom Riders.  Some improvements in treatment resulted. Besides getting the screens back on the windows and the bedding as promised, we began to get some mail. However, it was severely censored.  I got one letter which it started Dear David, then the entire body of the letter was cut out leaving a large hole, with the closing good-bye remaining.

TWELVE DAYS OF  HUNGER STRIKE ENDS

After 12 days of fasting, those of us on hunger strike halted our fast under assurances that the justice Department was going to take action to halt the arrests. It was at that point that I began to "experience" the food in Parchman: Breakfast every morning was black coffee strongly flavored with chicory, grits, biscuits and blackstrap molasses. Lunch was generally some form of beans or black-eyed peas boiled with pork gristle, served with cornbread. In the evening, it was the same as lunch except it was cold. After fasting for 12 days, I ate everything with gusto. I discovered that if you pour the molasses on the biscuits in the morning, by the afternoon, the biscuits "crisped up" inside, making what passed for a crunchy sweet. The things we appreciate when limited food is available...

UNCERTAINTY ABOUT RELEASE DATE

I had found that the aluminum cup we were given as our drinking vessel would leave a gray line when rubbed on the cement wall. I constructed a large calendar and illustrated a mural on the wall using this cup. I had calculated that the 40 days (maximum time before which bail must be posted) would be over on Friday July 7th.  I expected to be bailed out on that day. I had heard that if one weren't bailed out by 40 days, that one would have to serve out a full 6 months in prison. July 7th came and went. Saturday the 8th came and went. I was very depressed... Then, on Sunday July 9th, The guards came in and said that I should get ready to go, that I was being released. That was a joyous moment. I was led to a room where I was given my street clothes back. As I dressed, a guard who had seemed particularly virulent in his attitude to us sidled up to me and quietly said that he hoped there were no hard feelings. He said he was only doing his job, didn't I understand, and that he didn't personally hate us. I thought that was a very positive statement for him to say, and confirmed one of the underlying principles of non-violent resistance: that if we appeal to the humanness in each of us, returning courtesy for hateful actions, that hearts can be changed.

TRIP FROM JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI TO CINCINNATI, OHIO

Upon my release, I took the train from Jackson, Mississippi to Cincinnati, Ohio, a very tense ride especially while I was still in Mississippi. I was never more grateful to leave a state than when the train passed from Mississippi into Tennessee, but even then, I was in the South. When I arrived in Cincinnati, to my astonishment, there was a huge welcoming crowd of local civil rights people. Two hefty CORE members hoisted up me on their shoulders and carried me through the great hall of Union Terminal. Talk about culture shock!

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ENFORCES THE LAW

That summer, the Justice Department succeeded in getting the states to agree not to interfere with interstate travelers, and allow unrestricted, and thus we did accomplish the integration of public waiting rooms.

And don't we STILL have a long way to go before a person is valued for his person instead of his color, creed or religion?

1    Kasher, Steven, The Civil Rights Movement, A photographic History, 1954-68, p. 20.
2    Ibid, p. 31.
3    Wilkenson, Brenda, The Civil Rights Movement, An Illustrated History, p. 82.
4    Kasher, p. 145.
5    Williams, Juan, Eyes on the Prize, America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, p. 12.
6    Williams, p. 144.
7    Kasher, p. 86.
8     Williams, p. 150.
9     Wilkenson, p. 115.
10    Wexler, Sanford, An Eyewitness of the Civil Rights Movement , p. 130
NOTE: I have been called to task (correctly, I might add) for not crediting the photographers who have taken these images of the Freedom Rides. I am eager to give credit to these individuals if you happen to know who took the pictures I have posted. Send me an email with the information, thanks.