Freedom Riders speak at Judson High School

Raven Gatson

More stories from Raven Gatson

Most of the time, the history we consume is through Google, social media, or our old textbooks. Very rarely do we get to physically see and listen to the experiences of the people who went through these events first hand.

On Thursday, January 11, students had a chance to listen to the stories of these important moments within the Civil Rights Movement through the Freedom Rider activists themselves.

The Freedom Riders were activists who protested for the rights of African Americans through interstate buses in the segregated south in the 1960s. They also participated in sit-ins and more infamously marches. This year’s four speakers were Fred Anderson, Barbara Bowie, Kredelle Petway, and Mcarthur Cotton.

Despite all joining together for one goal, each individual came into the movement for different reasons.

“Growing up in Baton Rouge and in churches, everyone stressed around me the importance of being involved and trying to make a difference in the lives we were living and the experiences we were having,” Anderson said.

For them exercising the same freedoms that African Americans and other minorities have today was something they had to go out and fight for.

“We flew from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi where the four of us were arrested for attempting to drink out of a white water fountain,” Petway said. “We spent three days in that jail.”

Through their fight, the loses they had was also inspiration, especially for Barbara Bowie, who lost her mother due to neglect from the hospital that was treating her.

“At that time I felt they did not care about my mother’s life. They don’t care about mine, they don’t care about any of us. And that woke me up to the fact that this is a movement that we all need to be involved in,” Bowie said.

However, even in their fight, they had to be smart and cautious.

“When I was 18 and 19 [protesting,] I was a little bit smarter and a little bit more fearful, because there were law enforcement who had dogs and weapons,” Petway said. “They had tear gas, and the tear gas was so bad that I suffered tear gas inhalation and had to go to the hospital.”

With MLK Day just passing, hopefully we can use this as a time and opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are to exercise the freedoms we have today.