History repeating itself

History+repeating+itself

Victoria Simpri

Amidst today’s political climate, three Freedom Riders visited campus to remind students that the country has been through times like these before, and gave insight into how to take  a stand to make a change.

Freedom Riders Joan C. Browning, Dion Diamond and Reverend Reginald M. Green took over the Mount Carmel Auditorium on Jan. 30 to lead students in a lecture about their time as Freedom Riders and the struggle for racial justice.

The Freedom Riders were a group made up of 436 civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 in an effort to challenge the enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that stated separate but equal was constitutional.

There were 62 freedom rides in total. 48 via Greyhound and Trailways busses, 10 by train and four in airports, according to Browning. The freedom rides ended when the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered an end to segregated transportation effective Nov. 1, 1961.

The Freedom Riders were invited to campus by the Protestant chaplain at Quinnipiac, Andrew Ober.

Ober reached out to the Freedom Riders from a contact who had connected with the Freedom Riders when they visited Bridgeport just a few years ago. Browning, Diamond and Green were very happy to come to Quinnipiac, according to Ober.

“We planned this a long time ago and had no idea that the timing was going to be so appropriate with the activism at the level that it’s at right now,” Ober said.

Browning was a student at Georgia State College for Women, now known as Georgia College, and was asked to leave in 1961 because she attended a black church, although she is a white woman.

At the age of 19 Browning was arrested after taking part in a freedom ride from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia. Browning was arrested with the charge of conspiracy to overthrow the government of the state of Georgia.

“I thought that was pretty heavy lifting for eight young adults who took a train ride on a Sunday afternoon,” Browning said.

The charges were later changed to disturbing the peace and refusing to obey a police officer.

“The police officer’s order we were supposed to obey was to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk,” Browning said. “But there was not then and there is not now a sidewalk at that train station.”

Diamond was in Malcolm, Georgia working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to get citizens registered to vote.

Green was a student preparing for the ministry at Virginia Union University. In 1961 Green joined other Freedom Riders and took a bus to a heavily segregated town in the Jackson, Mississippi.

The purpose of the event was to talk about activism and the connection that faith has to it. The story of the Freedom Riders is as relevant today as it ever has been, according to Ober.

“The past few years all across this country, this campus included, has seen a surge in activism,” Ober said during the introduction to the lecture. “Ever since Ferguson threw this last weekend, even through today when there are protests at nearby airports; activism is a big part of what it means to be American. What it means to be a student. And what it means to fight for justice.”

The Freedom Riders have not had the opportunity to speak to many college students they were very excited to pass their knowledge and experience onto younger people, according to Ober.

Sophomore biology major Deja Perry attended the event on Monday night to learn about the country’s history from more than just a textbook.

“I wanted to learn more about my history and what happened in the past from someone that has been through it. I have heard stories of the freedom rides but I’ve never heard it from an actual person who has been through it,” she said.