The Freedom Riders were young college students who put their lives on the line and had no fear of being killed. They fought to integrate interstate public transportation. As the fight continued there was a massive backlash. The ruling of the Interstate Commerce Commission prompted Ruling Gov. John Patterson, a race baiter, to do all in his power to maintain segregated transportation in Alabama. The violence that the Freedom Riders endured is difficult to imagine. As we strolled thru Kelly Ingram Park, the chained dogs and fire hose exhibits made me uncomfortable. In my mind I pictured the fear that the demonstrators must have felt; they were people who only wanted the same rights as white citizens. Later on Highway 80 we stopped at the Viola Liuzzo Memorial. She was a white civil rights activist and mother of five who sacrificed her life for the struggle. I wondered what her family members felt. Did they support her decision to join the Freedom Riders, did they become involved after her death, how did the children honor her?
As we entered New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, the destruction from Hurricane Katrina is still very much evident today, eleven years later. Will this part of the city ever rebuild and become the city that it once was. Could you imagine the despair that these people felt knowing that they lost everything they owned? They had no one to turn to; even the Federal Government mishandled the situation.
In Jackson as arrived at the Medgar Evers home, I remembered hearing Myrlie Evers Williams speak in Lexington two years ago. She described the night that her husband was killed and the chaos that surrounded the house. To witness such a horrific murder took a toll on her children. I was in awe as I listened to her describe that night, and her strength amazed me. A chill passed through me as we stood in front of the ruins of the Bryant Grocery in Money, Mississippi as I considered the fear on the face of young Emmett Till when he was kidnapped, beaten and thrown in the Tallahatchie River. I hoped and prayed that he was dead before he was bound and thrown from the bridge.
Memphis was just downright emotionally draining. To be in the Civil Rights Museum and see Martin Luther King’s room and the wreath on the balcony were he fell brought back the memory of watching it all unfold on national television. I was eleven years old in 1968 and I cried and was angry because his life was cut short. And then we got to Fisk University in Nashville, where Diane Nash was a student, and it was almost like coming full circle. This is where the young college students attended school. I am so thankful they didn’t give up the fight because we may not be where we are today. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to take Dr. DeLaney’s class. I will remember the good times we had on the trip, the discussion in class after viewing the Eye on the Prize. This class has taught me to think about the way I interpret history, and I understand that history is forever changing.