Sidebar for a minute

Every now and then I will do these sidebars where I move away from talking about interpretation and slavery and historic sites, to talk about something still in the history arena (I am after all, a public historian). Tonight, I wanted to draw your attention to a few projects that revolve around the same topic: The 1961 Freedom Rides

First up, I have been working with the lovely people at WGBH American Experience to bring the 2011 Student Freedom Ride to Rock Hill as this group of college students retraces the Freedom Ride. This has been a great experience and I am glad to be a part of commemorating yet another groundbreaking event in the Civil Rights Movement. I have been planning a lunch for the group which will include a meal at The Old Town Bistro, which is now housed in what was in 1961 a McCrory’s Lunch Counter. At this lunch counter January 31, 1961, nine students from local Friendship College sat down and requested to be fed. Their arrest led to the men refusing bail, thus starting the jail, no bail tactic during Civil Rights. Once their lunch has been concluded, the group will talk to members of the Friendship Nine, as well as local leaders and another great person, Adrienne Barnette. I have worked tirelessly on this project and cannot wait for everything to happen. Mayor Dough Echols will greet the group and hopefully this will really get some of the younger people in Rock Hill who don’t know the various roles their city played in the Civil Rights Movement thinking about the place they live.

Another project that I am happy to be a part of (albeit small) is the Route1961 project that my wonderful friend Adrienne Barnette is doing along with her amazing riding partner Ze’riah Cashino. Adrienne is the creator of Carolina Character, a program that provides “educational services and strategic programming to assist children and students K-12 with their personal, social, career and character development.” First of all, the Carolina Character program is an amazing concept in itself and something that is sooo needed for today’s kids. Character, along with manners, is something that the youth lack today, and it’s wonderful to see someone actually promote the importance of having great character.

I was honored that, along with Mr. Clarence Graham and Mr. Willie McCleod of the Friendship Nine, I was invited to be a speaker at the kick off assembly for the Route1961 project because I along with these historic figures, was someone who exhibited great character. But the uber amazing thing that Adrienne and Za’riah have decided that they will take the Freedom Ride of 1961 and will recreate it on a motorcycle. Here’s another angle…Adrienne is a black female Za’riah is a white male. Riding a black Harley and a white Ducati. From DC to New Orleans. All I can say is…sore booty and aching muscles. But they are doing this not only to remember the fight that the original Riders faced so that we can enjoy intrastate travel without issue, but to show kids involved in the Character program what having good character can get you.

Through non-violence (at least on their end) the Freedom Riders changed the way travel in the United States is. By black and white riding together and integrating bus stations pretty much by utter defiance, people today don’t have to even think about sitting at the front or back of a bus or making sure that they stay on the right side of the bus station. And while there are those who may frown at hopping a Greyhound today, I recommend just taking a trip on one and think back to the time when the simple ride wasn’t so simple.

From April 14-24th, Adrienne & Za’riah are making that freedom ride and remembering what others have done for us. I recommend keeping up with their travels at Route1961 and follow them on twitter @Route1961. The work is amazing, the experience is once in a lifetime and the message is eternal!

Also…there is a song about this called Ride On…check it out…download it here! Adrienne wrote it the night she met the Friendship Nine.

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