My mother never told me the stories.
All I ever knew were the pictures.
In 2011, on the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides, I returned to Mississippi with my mother.
It was there and in subsequent interviews that her entire story would begin to unfold.
Her great-grandparents were Georgia slave owners but after the War
the family was reduced to sharecropping and chicken-thieving.
Her mother moved to Washington, D.C. and married the only
foreigner in the family... a Yankee.
In 1941 my mother was born
but when her mother suddenly became ill she was raised by a black woman
for the first couple months of her life.
I tell you this because her mother didn't like black people
and her family, like most whites in the South at that time,
believed that no matter how bad things might be at least you weren't black.
And that was the world my mother grew up in,
where family discussions of Leo Frank's lynch mob passing by her aunt's house
weren't based on whether lynching was right or wrong but if he was guilty or not.
This was the South after all and segregation and racism were a way of life.
In the 40s,
in the German occupied countries,
if a Jew walking on the sidewalks did not get off the sidewalk
when a German was coming and didn't take his cap off he was risking his life.
We had that same thing over here.
I always wondered why I had to go through the back door of the public library,
why could not going into the stacks to get my own books,
why I had to go to the colored water fountain.
In Sears I can remember white ladies and color women bathrooms.
You could not sit at Kress' counters.
We would go downtown and buy candy or something and we couldn't sit at the counters.
We couldn't even go downtown and eat at a lot of the restaurants...
downtown... in D.C.
Let's say we were supposedly equals, we were being treated that way,
and I suddenly pissed off this white person.
They had all kinds of things at their disposal to do me in
and there was nothing I could do about it.
He said, "You ran that light." My dad said, "No sir. I didn't run the light it was yellow."
"Maurice, I said to you, you ran that light." My dad didn't say anything.
And he looked at us in the backseat and
I guess we looked like a nice little family and he said,
"Maurice, you're like a good nigger, so I'm going to let you off this time."
It was a separate and unequal society basically buttress by local customs and laws.
But, you know, that was just the way things were and you wanted to say,
"What do you mean that was the way things were?!"
I met whites from all over who had questions raised.
I later met blacks who when they had questions raised their parents had to tell them,
"It may be wrong but don't you try and do anything about it. This is in God's hands.
Here's how you protect yourself.
Maybe you shouldn't ride the bus so much if that upsets you."
Your parents did that but they also told you that it would come to an end
because it was wrong.
Anything that is that wrong can't last.
My mother accepted Segregation as the way things were but one summer
while visiting her family in Georgia her life would change forever.
One day this girl, Mary I think her name was, that lived down the road,
she and I would play together every summer.
We decided, sort of dared each other, to go walk through Nigger Town
which was down by the Coca-Cola bottling plant and then a road led off
on the other side of the tracks
that went through the black area.
And everybody just seemed to disappear into their houses or the back of their houses
when these two little white girls were walking through.
No one spoke to us. No one bothered us. They just made themselves invisible.
I think that's when things really hit me as to how unequal they were and how unfair.
I went to church regularly and Sunday school. We memorized all these verses about
do unto others as you would have them do unto you and
in as much as ye have done it unto the least of these
my brethren ye have done it unto me...
all that good King James....
And in Sunday School we would sing about
"Jesus loves the little children, all the children in the world,
red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world."
And I guess I've taken stuff more or less literally which has sometimes gotten me into trouble
but sometimes I think it has worked to my advantage for seeing things clearly.
Joan was very aware that she was a Southerner.
and she knew what that meant and she loved the South.
She loved being a Southerner.
However, when her eyes were open to what it meant to be a Southerner
in this day and age, in the 1950s;
to recognize the huge divide in economic status between the two races
she began to really wonder, "How am I, as an individual, going to change this?"
And I know it is somewhat alarming
that a nine or ten year old could begin to think that way
but that is exactly where her mind began to go.
She didn't like what she saw, she realized it needed to be changed,
and she realized somebody had to do it.
She went home and began questioning a lot of things her mother took for granted
and it began to open up a divide between mother and daughter.
In 1957, National Guard troops were used in Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce
the Brown versus Board of Education ruling of '54 and my mother was shocked.
This wasn't supposed to happen in America.
Segregation had to end
and my mother vowed that if she ever had the opportunity to do something about it
she would do it.
In 1961, she would get that opportunity, but the consequences of her decision
would both haunt her and define her for the rest of her life.
My mother being from this segregated environment in the South was a Segregationist;
not vicious or mean about it but that is what
but that is what she considered a normal...
appropriate way of life.
And it got to the point where I was going to start applying to colleges
I wanted to go to a small church school.
I think it was in Ohio but it might have been Kentucky.
My mother was absolutely against it.
Her first objection was that it wasn't well known. It was not an important college.
And second, and probably her real objection was she was afraid it would be integrated
and I might be in classes or even have a roommate who was
Colored as the polite term was then.
So, she decided I should go to Duke University.
I just sort of gave up. At least it would get me out of the house.
I was accepted at Duke and darn if the sit-ins didn't start in
February of my freshman year.
By spring, I was involved in the sit-ins.
When Joan began to not only participate in meetings where these things were discussed
but would actually go down to the Raleigh-Durham city
and began to actually sit-in with the black students
she was not only branded as a radical they thought she was out of her mind.
A Southern white woman doing this kind of thing
the only explanation was she was mentally ill.
And she was taken in for some oversight.
They talked to her quite a bit after her first arrest.
They insisted that she call her parents and let them know what was going on.
She was certainly taken to task by the Duke Administrators about what she was doing.
I knew what I was doing was keeping with my understanding of Christianity
and the foundation of the country with the Declaration of Independence.
But at the same time I knew it was against the way of life
that virtually all of the relatives I knew believed in
and the sentiment that the only thing worse than a nigger is a nigger lover would apply.
I would be out of the family.
But there was the advantage that once you took the fatal step
of stepping outside the bounds of acceptability there was no stepping back
so you could only go forward.
I think that helped some of us white Southerners to keep on keeping on.
We had no place to go back to.
But the Movement became family.
And black kids sometimes could not go back home either
not because their parents disowned them
but because it was not safe. They were asked not to come back.
They knew they could be killed or their parents could be killed
or their home burned down.
You know, one thing to the next.
So, for a lot of us there was no turning back.
So she immediately comes back to Northern Virginia
and gets involved in the Student Movement up here
which had become very active since February.
She moved into an area near Howard University
and got involved with a group there called N.A.G.,
the Non-Violent Action Group.
Their motto was "nag, nag, nag" and they were going to nag the country into submission.
Even in Northern Virginia, a lot of the lunch counters were not yet integrated.
So, Joan began sitting in with her friends from N.A.G. in almost like her neighborhood.
And it was interesting because there was one sit-in that almost duplicated the Jackson sit-in.
The first time I recall meeting Joan was at the Drug Fair lunch counter over in Arlington.
We were surrounded and I think she was sitting next to me.
I think you may have seen the picture of Joan
sitting right next to me with a little kid who,
honestly, couldn't have more than 13 or 14 years of age.
But he's in my face with his finger pointing directly in my face.
I think most of the focus was actually on the black students
but they would be telling you how things were not meant to be this way,
blacks were inferior, smelly, diseased....
I don't know exactly what they said at this point but this is the general line.
That white people should rule.
And this was not that long after World War II so
Nazi armbands and brown shirts and lunging police dogs...
the whole thing was frightening.
It was kind of scary for a moment because, again,
the thought of what the Nazi Party stood for
was right in front of us.
If he were indeed as dedicated as we were I expected to be hit.
There was quite a crowd gathered outside. They emptied the store and there were also people
that had gathered outside that I guess they hadn't let in
but the police gave us safe passage through that
as I recollect to some cars that were brought up.
I understand there was some gunfire that evening;
now whether it was aimed at someone or into the air... intimidating.
I don't know what happened with that.
There was a mob outside but we piled into the automobile and tore out of there.
No one attacked us and that's only because of the fact that there were still police there
and as long as they kept the peace we were safe.
Within a couple of weeks the drug stores in northern Virginia desegregated
and my mother and her companions began looking for their next target.
They settled on Glen Echo Park in Maryland
with its segregated swimming pools and amusement rides.
My mother purchased the tickets
as her fellow black students rushed to get a seat on the merry-go-round
because as she would later say, "There's a back of a bus and a back of a line
but there's not a back of a carousel."
In all, my mother would participate in nearly three dozen sit-ins and protests
before a seemingly peaceful plan was hatched to confront interstate travel.
It would be called the Freedom Rides.
This was an idea that caught the imagination of the country
however the Civil Rights community thought it was a bit of a lark.
They thought, "Oh right, we're just going to ride on
buses through the South for a couple of months."
It was almost seen like a vacation and some of the people who actually participated
were initially viewed as people who were just slackers.
They didn't want to go and do the hard work of going and demonstrating
in front of hardcore places
so they were just going to take a bus.
I think we knew from the start that it could be dangerous.
On the other hand, maybe to break the tension, maybe half thinking it,
we were teasing Hank and some that
here you're going off on this all expensed paid vacation.
Good way to end the semester buddy.
How I spent my summer in 1961 let me tell you the ways.
They put together a small group of 13 riders, I think it was 13,
who left Washington on two separate busses
making their way through the Upper South.
In the Upper South they were attacked a few times,
a couple of people were beaten up, arrested,
most notably in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
But really all Hell broke loose when they got to Alabama.
And all of a sudden it made national news and everybody realized
this was not just a walk in the park.
This was the next stage of the revolution.
I had already had a taste. I had seen the violence. I had just barely escaped the Klan.
So, I had no illusions whatsoever about what was going to happen next.
I didn't know anything about Anniston, Alabama and then we were told
that we were literally going into the belly of the beast.
Anniston was a hotbed of Klan activity and as a matter of fact, Jim Farmer,
who's a pretty good stump speaker spoke that night and told a joke about Anniston
in terms of foretelling what we were going to be in for.
He said, "There was this bus driver driving a Greyhound bus
and as he got maybe three or four miles
from Anniston he heard this knock, knock, thumping on the side of the bus.
So, he pulled over to see what it was and as he opened the door the greyhound
had gotten down off of the side of the bus and had wanted to come inside.
He asks, "Why do you want to do that?' He said, "We're getting ready to go into Anniston."
And there are variations of that joke.
One preacher said, "Lord, we're getting ready to go down to Alabama
and we want you to be with us."
And there was silence. He said, "Lord, did you hear me? I want you to be with us."
So he heard that voice, "I'll go with you as far as Anniston."
So, all kinds of joke about how dangerous it was going to be
and surely enough when we got maybe a few miles outside of Anniston
we all had been singing on the bus and as we did that from time to time.
A bus coming from Anniston stopped on the opposite side of the highway
and the two bus drives got out and spoke.
The driver of our bus got back on and looked at us and kind of smiled.
As we got into Anniston the streets were deserted... no one.
And it was telling us this is not good.
A mob fire bombed the bus as church goers brought their children
to watch the Freedom Riders burn alive on Mother's Day.
Riders were able to escape only to be beaten with baseball bats
until the local authorities finally stepped in.
Freedom Riders were attacked two more times in Birmingham and Montgomery
where it appeared things would come to an end
but a call back to my mother in D.C. to send more Riders
and a team lead by Diane Nash in Nashville
However, my mother and the Freedom Riders were now entering Mississippi,
a place many would call the heart of darkness.
Joan went on an unusual Freedom Ride.
She and a group from Washington which included the activist, and later SNCC Chairman,
Stokely Carmichael, flew from Washington to New Orleans
which is where the Freedom Rides was supposed to end
and from New Orleans they took a train to Jackson
therefore integrating yet another facility;
not the bus depot but the train depot.
You stepped off the bus or out of the train and you went into the waiting room together,
whether it was the black one or the white one.
You were told to "Move on or move out", by Captain Ray.
"Did you all hear me? You going to do it? You're under arrest."
And out to the paddy wagon and from there to the city jail.
Then you had your trial, so called, which was down to absolute routine,
and over to the county jail.
I got started on my project, The Breach of Peace, because of the mug shots.
They're a very remarkable collection of
documents of this, really, in the heat of the battle
if you will of the Freedom Rides. All of them as a set are tremendous.
Some of them really leap out at you and Joan's is one of those.
Joan is somebody I interviewed and photographed very late in my process
of going around the country and seeing people.
But I was very excited to get to her and meet this very striking young woman
who I came to find out had a very extensive career in the Movement
both before and after the rides.
The way I've come to think of it is they knew they were bearing witness
to what was going on in Mississippi and the South.
Part of that was being present while their mug shot was being made
and I think there is a real quality to her picture...
her portrait if you will that really kind of leaps off the page.
The great thing the mugs shots afford us Is not to see Joan today as someone who did so much
and was engaged in so many facets of the Movement but to see her then.
And to really think of her as a very young woman
who was in the front lines and putting her life at risk.
I think that mug shot really kicks all of that up in people and gives them the chance,
that I see people respond to, to really think about,
"What would I do in that situation? Would I have the courage of my convictions?"
In jail, Joan was segregated from the rest of the black girls.
She was put in a cell with some of the white women
who had begun to participate in the Freedom Rides.
I had more in common (culturally... historically in many ways) with the blacks
who were in the cells next to us who came out of the Southern Student Movement
than I did with the whites in my cell who were basically all from the North
and most had been involved in "Oh how awful those Southerners are,"
and sympathy pickets in the North at say a Woolworth or something.
They had been involved in Northern political labor
and political issues and looked down on the South.
She felt she had more of a dialogue and a commonality with the black girls
from the Southern region than these kind of "godless" Northerners
with their strange accents and their strange practices.
But she was put in a cell, a very small cell, with a bunch of girls.
It was not a very pleasant environment.
She wrote a diary at that time and it is a diary that continues to exist.
There was a lot of concerns of shakedowns
which were always rumored to be happen,
so I had on this skirt that had this big ruffle deep hem.
We opened that up a little bit and I would take the diary, this is it,
and sort of crinkle it up and get it really soft.
Then we could open it up and fold it neatly and then slip it into my hem
And we figured that way it would probably not discovered even in a good pat down.
My mother would spend two more weeks in Hinds County Jail
as more and more Freedom Riders flooded the state from all over the country
but Mississippi had a plan to break the Freedom Rides
and end the Civil Rights Movement in once and for all.
And so at 19 years old, my mother and her friends
were sent to the most dreaded prison in America... Parchman.
It was probably one of the most violent and worst places a human being could be.
It was a very brutal place. People kind of went there and disappeared.
Some of them, the ones that I saw, that
got out of there and came back were just broken people.
So, my thinking when they put the Freedom Riders in there was,
"Oh my God! What are these people in for?"
Parchman was absolutely notorious.
We wanted to believe we were coming out of this alive and in one piece
but it was the place of legends for brutality.
And the men apparently had it a lot rougher than the women did
but at the time you had no idea what was happening to anyone else.
I got mine whipped a couple of times.
Wouldn't say... didn't know how to say, "Yes, sir."
And those prison guards were at the lowest rung in white society.
They didn't make any money. They just barely made enough to get by
but when they were inside Parchman Prison... they were kings.
So, you could pay them forty-five dollars a week
and all of the blacks he could whip up on
and somehow or another he was satisfied.
A lot of the Riders told me that the most scared they were in Mississippi,
including getting arrested and the whole thing, was the drive from Jackson to Parchman
and that's when they knew they were alone.
Joan was not sure where they were taking her.
They were not told where they were going.
They were being put into paddy wagons and just taken off.
And they were taken off to rural part of Mississippi.
And this was before interstates
and none of us had a good strong fix on quite where Parchman was
except that it was in the Delta and that was bad.
The worst place in the country. Emmitt Till had been murdered not too far from there.
We had turned off the main highway or route to Parchman and obviously
going back to this house sort of back off the road
and the guy... the driver has his buddies out there
and he's sort of showing us off to them. Okay, what are they going to do?
In hind sight they were just trying to intimidate us;
make us think they were going to do more than they were.
And the guy probably needed a pit stop.
But we didn't know what was going to happen.
We could've been killed. It crossed our minds that we might be killed.
So they were taken to Parchman and Joan tells the story of her first introduction to Parchman
which was not the nice... Hinds County Jail where she was allowed to have her own clothes.
This is just women... pretty much strip
and there's a matron there who is giving a sort of rough vaginal examine
cleansing her gloved hand between customers as it were
in a bucket of what smells like Lysol.
I still don't go for that smell.
And we were issued the course denim black and white striped skirts
and I think t-shirts.
They cleared out death row in the Parchman Penitentiary so they could make room
for these hundreds of students who were coming in.
I didn't realize we were on death row until after I had left.
When we went back to Parchman and the warden was able to take me
(a young warden at that time who was not even born at the time of the Freedom Rides)
... took me to the cell where I was held.
And that cell, and I walked it off, was 50 feet from the death chamber.
And I'm looking there at that gas chamber and then I turn around and walk back to my cell
and I had to walk back again to that gas chamber.
That's where I was. That's where we were.
As far as the State of Mississippi was concerned, we had committed capital crimes.
I definitely wanted to go back to Parchman.
I'm not totally sure why but it had been an important two months of my life
and I shared so much there with so many
and whatever ghosts were lingering in the back of my persona
I thought this would set them free.
I wasn't really at all sure how I would feel when I got there.
I think a lot of us were that way. We wanted to go but can we handle it?
But the reception we got there from the head of the prison on down... it was good.
Yeah, that's right, welcome home.
Watch your step.
Here we go.
Showers once a week.
Helen, this looks right familiar.
I can sing, "Mother, mother there's far too many of you crying."
So, I guess this must have been where we met with the rabbi.
[Singing] "Brother, brother, brother...."
What's that Mom?
I think this little area right here must have been where we met with the rabbi.
Oh yeah, here's 14, home sweet home.
It's a little updated.
We had bunk beds back then. I don't think we had a storage area.
Actually, when there were three people in the cell we put another mattress underneath
and then pull it out at night.
We definitely did not have a water fountain but a sink and a commode.
To see the cell is as small as I remembered it.
Not comparable to Nelson Mandela's experience
but the cell that smaller than the one he was in for years we had up to four people in
and that did put that part of it in perspective.
But then some of us who had been sort of nervous we were in no hurry to leave.
When we were there, even though we were on the same cell block,
we were isolated from each other,
you just heard voices.
You never really had a chance for a face-in-face encounter.
When you went for showers or something you were hurried right down that cell block.
And to be there reminiscing, "Oh, you were down there.
Remember when this happened? They did feed us fried chicken on the Fourth of July."
And just laughing and feeling sort of like a reunion in a unique sort of way.
That was good.
Yeah, it just seems funny walking out the door and some of us, particularly a couple of us,
seem sort of reluctant to be leaving.
We want to take in more of it.
What was the most dreaded prison in America and as terrified as many of us were to come here
now we can't get enough of it on our one trip back.
It was good to come away with that.
We had to be... the busses have got to leave!
Come on folks!
Then we would find something else to compare notes on.
Glad we did it.
Refusing bail, my mother would finish her two months on death row
and upon her release set off for Tougaloo College where she had been accepted
as the first white student to enroll in the school's storied history
and where she would later become a member of Delta Sigma Theta.
I'm sitting here looking around the campus. It feels right at home.
The chapel, my old dormitories at either end are still standing.
I know where I am.
The housing that was really close to County Line Road, on that side of the housing,
people had metal plates to deflect bullets that might come in.
Every now and then, particularly when things like Meredith was going into Ole Miss
or Kennedy was assassinated, anything that got feelings running high
folks would drive down that road and fire into the houses.
Not a lot but at night the Klan was subject to
come on campus down past the president's house.
It was a lot more wooded then than it is now.
Some of the guys would be down there waiting for intruders.
They would have their hunting rifles down there I understand
but occasionally there would be a cross burning down there
but they would try and chase them off.
This is so scenic.
Yeah. Not high enough to be inconvenient but good and sturdy and high enough
that someone's feet wouldn't touch the ground.
I've never seen a hanging.
Well, life has its hazards.
I'm standing on the path that I walked down with Dr. King after he spoke here
to take him over to the science building where he was speaking to a crowd.
I can't really tell you exactly what Dr. King said but as always it was inspirational
and helped to give us the strength to press on until victory was won.
In many ways, King was our hero like he was for most of the Civil Rights Movement...
the leader, the spokesperson, the inspiring voice.
But at other times we students were totally frustrated with him
that he was too busy preaching and not leading enough action.
It was a delicate balance.
Joan was considered the Segregationists' worst nightmare.
The whole concept that somehow something could happen between this white woman
and these black men on campus was a big concern of the authorities in Mississippi
and, in fact, there was an attempt to shut down Tougaloo
as a result of this reverse integration that was going on.
Fortunately, for Tougaloo, their charter predated the Jim Crow laws from the late 1800s
so they were able to kind of skirt by that
but there were certainly many people in Mississippi
that were uncomfortable and unhappy with Joan's presence on Tougaloo.
She wasn't the outside agitator. She was a white Southerner.
She was a white Southern woman and so for that purpose she was even more dangerous
to the white supremacist power structure because she was one of their own.
She was one of their own who grew up to see the system was wrong and she rejected it.
And she actively opposed it.
And not only that, in addition,
it probably shouldn't be underestimated the fact that she was a woman.
And, of course, white supremacy, for at least a hundred years had used white woman
as an excuse for the violence they enacted upon black men.
So, here's this white woman who is supposed to be protected by white supremacy;
who is supposed to be the one that Jim Crow
keeps these black, beast, rapists and these people....
Jim Crow is meant to protect her.
Here's this white Southern woman who is supposed to be protected by this system saying,
"I don't need this protection and I don't believe in the system."
And so that made her incredibly dangerous a huge threat to that power structure.
This is one of the many letters I got after I enrolled at Tougaloo
dated November 14, 1961:
My dear Joan Trumpauer, You dear, pitiful child,
can't you and the rest of the young generation see what the Communist are doing?
This isn't the doing of the true blooded Americans.
It is the Jews and Communists behind all of this Negro business.
It's true that God made us all humans, black and white, but he didn't intend us to mix.
Now here's a card. I don't know who it's from; looks like it was a postcard.
Race mixing is a dumb, stupid, unnatural action.
Even the animals, birds, and fish know better than to mix.
Race mixing is an outrageous action and will result in mongrelization,
degradation and destruction of white Christian America, and civilization.
Race mixing is a subversive device of the Communist plot
to destroy white America and Christianity.
If you preach, teach, or advocate race mixing you are promoting the Communist line
and the religion of the Devil.
This fan mail was sort of expected. We had heard it all before.
Sometimes it was sad and sometimes amusing.
This person from Troy, New York.
Integration equals Communist. We love Governor Barnett.
And another one... hand written. Dear Miss Trumpauer,
why do you throw away your silly life on blacks at all?
It seems to me you should go to your own people and help them mount...
help them... maintain what God has purposely made manifest: Segregation.
Well, they can spell but their handwriting could use a few lessons.
From Los Angeles: Dear Ms Trumpauer,
I have read the article, "Reverse Integration in Mississippi" several times
and each time I read the article I'm forced to believe there is a living Christ
or rather a living concept of Christianity. This symbol of the living Christ is you.
I do not believe there is to be found anywhere a more dedicated individual
than you have shown in the last few years of your activity.
Your participating in C.O.R.E. and now a student at Tougaloo College
are all traits of your belief in Christian principals.
Wow, that sort of makes it all worth it
that people understand what I'm doing and appreciate it.
A little over the top in the praise comparing me as a living Christ
but at least seeing the connection between Christianity and the way I'm trying to live.
That's good... finally.
By the end of her first year at Tougaloo Joan was accepted on campus.
She was beginning to become part of the fabric of campus life.
She leaves and goes back home.
Her parents had attempted to reconcile with her
and frankly were dangling a European vacation
in front of her as a way of getting her away from South
and hopefully, once they got her out of the South,
hopefully they would keep her out of the South.
So, she accepted this little junket off to Europe for that summer
and apparently had a grand time but when it was time to go back to school
she went right back to Tougaloo in the fall of 1962.
And interestingly right at that point there was a new movement developing.
John Salter, one of the professors on campus had begun working with Medgar Evers,
the head of the NAACP,
to develop a student movement that would eventually rock the foundations
of the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi.
This new movement would explode on May 28th 1963 when John Salter and Medgar Evers
took the Jackson Boycott to the next level.
In all, 14 people would participate in what would become one of the most famous
and violent sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement.
I've heard at various times from the reporter,
the cameraman and the son of one of the reporters
that this was one of the most terrifying, frightening,
event they covered in the Civil Rights Movement.
Now, I guess they weren't in Birmingham or Montgomery with the Freedom Riders
but they got around and this to them was the worst.
Everyone believed that the students would be immediately arrested and carted off to jail
and so no one thought that was going to cause much of a ruckus.
They really had their hopes pinned on the integrated group of demonstrators
outside the store down the street.
When the three individuals, Perlena Lewis, Memphis Norman and Anne Moody,
sat down at the white counter... nothing happened.
The police would not come into the store and arrest the sit-in students
because of a Supreme Court decision the week or so before saying
they could not come in of their own initiative. They had to be invited by the store manager.
This was a case that grew out of the Durham, North Carolina sit-ins
and my name was one of the ones on the decision.
Now, Joan, interestingly, was not supposed to be a part of this demonstration.
She was what was called a "spotter" and she was supposed to spot the demonstration,
the protest, going on down the street.
But the picket line was arrested more or less immediately instead of lasting a while.
So, Louis and I phoned in a report on that and then Medgar's office
would know to get the lawyers and bonds money together.
And then it was sort of like, "Okay, what do we do now?"
This was a block or so up the street.
We said, "Well, let's go and check in at what's happening at Woolworth."
They had no idea that this environment had turned volatile until they walked into the store
and it was right at that moment that a thug, a former police officer, had come in...
... a racists, virulent, segregationist... came in and pulled Memphis Norman,
the one black male, off of his stool,
knocked him onto the floor and began kicking him mercilessly.
Memphis curled up into a ball
and was trying to protect himself in the way that he had been taught
and luckily this thug, Benny Oliver was his name, had on just tennis shoes.
If he had had on any other type of shoe Memphis would have been severely hurt.
In this case there was still blood running out of his nose, running out of his ear.
Then an undercover policeman came up and arrested both of the guys,
the attacker and Memphis, probably breach of peace.
When we had seen Memphis kicked in the head. He had blood coming out of his nose and ears,
which is not a scratch, anything could have happened to anybody.
Meanwhile, I was back at the NAACP offices in the Masonic Temple
when a quick, hurried, call came
that a mob was gathering in the Woolworth store,
that Memphis Norman had been pulled off his stool
and savagely kicked and arrested.
Medgar and John, others in the office, had to make the decision,
"Do we call it off and try to rescue the last two people who were there."
And if we didn't call it off how could we leave just two people at that counter?
Would we have volunteers to go in?
So I set out to head for the Woolworth store.
Medgar wanted to come but I persuaded him not to because, I said,
"You're a marked man and the way this thing is developing you could get killed."
Joan was then stuck in this situation wondering what was going to happen next.
Anne Moody had been pulled off of her stool and thrown against some of the counters.
Perlena Lewis was also pulled from the stool and was down on her knees right by the counter
when the police officer came on the scene.
Both of them rushed back to the counter so the demonstration would continue.
Joan sees all of this and realizes.... First of all,
she's beginning to communicate with the demonstrators.
She sees a man with a knife walk by Anne Moody
and she calls out, "Annie, he's got a knife!"
All of a sudden she's identified with the people at the counter,
"Who is this white girl talking to those black girls?"
So, all of sudden she realizes that she's in danger.
But then I sat down. That's when I became a problem.
She walked through that mob in the Woolworth's store and they realized,
of course, immediately where she stood.
She joins Perlena and Annie at the counter; the first white to join the demonstration
and at this the crowd is just incensed. They become like hornets.
They start screaming at her, "You black bitch! You white nigger!
Yelling, screaming, cursing, laughing, a lot of loud laughter,
dirty jokes being cracked, racist remarks...
anytime people went to the counter though
it was like the crowd, the mob, really turned into an animal;
just an angry roar when they realized someone else was not afraid of them.
One of the white guys who was in league with Benny Oliver
grabs Joan and pulls her off the stool.
Another one grabs Annie Moody and pulls her off
and drags them to the back of the store and out the door.
Joan, its' interesting, kept her composure, and once outside of the store
what we see is this white tough guy pulling on a white Southern girl.
And the police arrest the guy and let Joan go back in the store.
So, he is arrested and carted off and she is left to go back in the store.
Annie is standing right there at the entrance somewhere she's lost her shoes
but they're both okay and they both decided that they're safer
if they get back to Perlena and back to the counter.So, that's what they do.
They make their way back through a throng of a couple of hundred people
by this point... back to the counter.
I went immediately to the lunch counter to sit with Joan and Annie Moody.
A white man mistaking me identity wise and mission wise yelled out,
"Hit "em hard, boy! Hit "em!"
But then I sat down with them and the crowd was quiet for just one moment
and then I heard my name mentioned by somebody and then they moved in on me.
When Salter joined, the crowd turned violent.
He was knocked in the back of his head with brass knuckles.
There was a student who put his cigarette out on the back of Salter's neck.
There were several cigarette...
and you can still see it to this day if you look on the back of his neck.
He has scars in the shape of a cigarette. They threw pepper and water mixture into his eyes.
My guideline was: Don't let the sons of bitches see you suffer.
Meanwhile I was chain smoking my Pall Malls if I could.
I talked to the police outside.
There were about 40 to 50 police outside the store who were letting whites in.
And I talked to them about what's happening, "Why don't you come in and stop it?"
And they would laugh and say, "It's your business. You folks started it."
But they certainly knew about all the violence inside.
You could see it through the windows.
They just got so hostile that this white man was sitting in.
Things were just going out of control and, at that point, Joan has said that she believed
that they were not going to make it out alive.
None of them were going to make it out alive.
I think I was beyond fear.
I think I was driven by determination to carry this through
and by the time I sat at the counter awhile it was like an out of body experience
that the real me had left the body and it was just a shell there.
And the real me was sort of up above like a guardian angel
letting me know what was happening and protecting me to some extent
but the real essence of me, the important part, was already out of there.
So, there we were and this went on for probably - it started at eleven
and got violent around eleven-thirty
we got there before twelve, something like that.
It ended around two-thirty.
By that time there were really several hundred people in the Woolworth store
and a great number of them outside. I learned later that a huge crowd outside
extended down the sidewalk and right around the street corner.
The spotters did observe the FBI
doing its normal task when people were threatened death:
very carefully observing.
I understand the FBI was there somewhere, and the undercover police,
the State Sovereignty Commission,
Citizens Council, everyone was there in theirrole;
recording it, egging it on.
So I'd say 90% of the thugs in the store were young.
They were the results of what would be years of White Citizens Council racial indoctrination.
Some of it conveyed even by lesson plans
which cooperative teachers introduced into curriculums.
The kids were a product of their environment
but they were also the tools of the power structure to accomplish its ends.
What eventually happens at the sit-in is the President of Tougaloo College
realizes what's going on, comes down to Woolworths,
tries to get the police to enter the store and shut it down.
They refuse. He tries to get the manager of the store to shut the store. He refuses.
Finally gets on the phone with the national office of Woolworths
and they advise the store manager to shut the store down.
So after nearly three hours of this intensity at a little after two o'clock
in the afternoon the manager comes down, turns off all the lights in the store,
and tells everybody to leave.
I think the best way to put it is it was a very interesting afternoon... to put it mildly.
But we had no idea the implications.
One immediate implication was instead of just a few hundred people coming to a mass meeting
there was almost a thousand.
It's the first time that black Jackson really rises up and says,
"We're going to support this Movement."
And it's a major turning point in the Movement in Jackson.
The following two weeks turn into demonstration after demonstration
and begin to open up the city of Jackson.
It becomes a more and more tense situation with the mayor and the city council
and the folks who are trying to negotiate on the side of the black populace.
It ultimately ends, unfortunately, with the assassination of Medgar Evers.
Medgar Evers, the head of the NAACP in Mississippi,
was shot in the back by Byran De La Beckwith while standing in his driveway.
In his hands were fundraiser t-shirts that read, "Jim Crow Must Go."
I think Medgar, to me, represents all the people who died gaining freedom.
He was one I knew.
I could've been killed... he was.
Apparently the Klan had a poster.
I've never seen it but I've talked to people who have.
People who were on the Klan's most wanted list, like the FBI has the 10 most wanted,
and when somebody was killed their faced was "x" out.
Mine never got "x" out... Medgar's did.
I'm here in Washington.
I live three miles from Arlington Cemetery.
So, whenever, I'm in town on the day he died I try and get by his grave.
A lot of years I haven't made it... a lot of years I have.
And increasingly I have.
And increasingly I'm finding other people are making it
just by the number of flowers and stones that are left at his grave.
And I feel like when I go to Medgar's grave it sort of like giving thanks to him
for his sacrifice; giving a report to him.
It focuses my thoughts on what went before and what's happening now.
I think that's why my reaction to Obama's election was: I've got to go to Medgar's grave
partly to update things and reflect on them and partly to give thanks to Medgar.
Through the summer of 1963, my mother stayed in DC and focused her energies
on helping plan and organize one of the largest human rights rallies in US History...
The March on Washington.
Up until the march actually took place, to that morning,
we were not at all certain it was going to come off.
The newspaper had brought up the possibility of riots; store owners downtown
boarded up store fronts a bit or were anticipating problems.
The American Nazi Party was just across the river in Arlington.
A lot of people were against the Civil Rights Movement then and there was even thoughts
that the federal government might bring out troops and prevent the march from happening
that the busses would be halted before they even got to the city.
So when we went down to the Mall early in the morning
and there were busses beginning to appear
and everything was peaceful and beautiful that was a good moment.
I didn't get to march.
I was working back in the press tent handing out kits, or what have you,
of information to the press
and then when it was getting pretty close to the time for the speeches
they had a van or something that bussed us all up closer so we could hear what was happening.
Dr. King in his prepared speech did not have the "I Have a Dream" speech
that we're all familiar with now. That got added, sort of an inspiration, at the end.
Of course, I hadn't seen the text of what anybody was going to say.
I know John Lewis had to censor his a bit and calm it down...
make it more appealing to the Kennedy's.
But King went off on the "I have a dream..." part.
It's interesting to me now that it's iconic (and it's good) but the Washington Post
in its coverage on the March on Washington, which was the banner headline,
lead story, picture on the front page, had A. Philip Randolph as the number one speaker.
It did not even mention Dr. King until you got to where it was continued on page whatever.
King's dream which was not even supposed to be part of the program
and not picked up on by the press is how we remember it.
On September 15th 1963 tragedy would befall the most innocent of victims
in the battle for racial equality when a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
We've all seen the footage of people getting sprayed
by the water hoses and things like that.
Well that was the protests going on at that time and they were essentially being staged
from the 16th Street Baptist Church because it was a
downtown church and they could gather there
and then leave from there for their protests and so that's what was happening.
Well the Klan didn't like that so what they did is they planted a bomb underneath the steps
on the side of that church and it blew up at about 10:22 in the morning.
In fact these girls were getting ready for a youth service that morning and,
in fact, the title of the lesson was called, "The Love that Forgives".
And the bomb blew up and killed those four girls.
Time for sadness... there was nothing to celebrate.
Glass that we picked up out of the gutters at the 16th Street Baptist Church
the day three of the little girls that had been blown up there were buried.
And the police shot over the heads of the people
who came out of the church to disperse the mob... right.
You expected people like Medgar to get killed.
You were ready to die yourself.
You were out in front doing things but three girls, four girls, in Sunday School?
That was just beyond belief particularly following right after the March on Washington.
I took a piece of glass and glued it onto some black ebony wood and made,
necklace is too nice a word for it, but made something to wear to remember it by.
I carried a piece of glass in my wallet for years
for just when I was fishing around for the change
I would feel that glass.
It was good for my soul.
But why those kids, in church, on Sunday morning?
Only the people directly connected with the church
and their families were allowed in the church,
a different church where the funeral was held
and loud speakers were trained on the streets
which were just filled with mourners.
Dr. King spoke.
Photographer Matt Herron who had been with the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson
was able to in the back of the organ pipes to get pictures, with permission,
but the rest of us were just listening from the outside
and when they carried the caskets down the steps and through the crowd it was...
people were crying it was hard to keep it together.
American flags were waving.
And to me this was the saddest day of the Movement
when they buried those kids.
We attended the funeral. We were standing outside and were going to follow the cortege
until Ed King and Diane Nash pointed and showed us the National Guards
standing with guns aimed down at us in the streets.
The National Guards who had been nationalized by the President of the United States
had Rebel Flags on their uniforms and
I was holding this American Flag which was not liked.
They just fell in love with the American Flag recently in the South
and so this flag was a sign of resistance I was holding.
So, you could see them standing all up around with the guns drawn.
Where were they on top of the church?
Yeah, all around.
I didn't look up I guess.
And so Ed and Diane said, "Look, look , look, look, look,"
the same way they did at Medgar's funeral
in Jackson when John Doer came out and started screaming and yelling and said,
"You must stop because they're going to shoot you," pointing to the guns aimed at people
in the streets there in Farris Street.
It would have been like the Sharpeville Massacre.
I'm not sure they were going to shoot us.
We were standing-
You're not sure?
No! The church... you're talking about during the time the funeral was going on?
Yes, ma'am. They had just blown the church up Joyce.
What makes you think-
Martin Luther King was inside preaching-
So! He was killed. He was killed.
Listen, let me speak please.
Will you indulge me a little?
There were a lot of people standing in front of that church
and I don't know whether they were going to shoot or not but
if there was any restraint to be had on that day they would have had it.
We bring from these experiences different feelings, impression and so on
Well, this is reality I'm dealing with.
So, I would've been shot too.
We had seen the violence with the murder of Emmett Till
and we had seen people, segregationists, we felt would do whatever they thought it took
to keep their way of life but within the terms of the Movement this was too much.
In May of 1964, fate would finally caught up with my mother
when she came face-to-face with the Klan in what she would later admit
was her most harrowing experience in the Movement.
We had no doubt we were going to die.
Mississippi was known as the deepest of the Deep South, the Heart of Darkness
where lynchings were not considered a crime.
We had known all along that somebody was going to die that summer
and it looked like it was us.
There was a curfew and there had been heavy demonstrations over the right to vote.
Earlier in the day at the court house several hundred people were marching there
and a lot of people had been beaten.
Throughout the day there had been incidences of
Whites just attacking Blacks walking on the streets;
so a very violent atmosphere.
Anne Moody who had actually been part of the Canton Movement came back to campus
because they were all graduating at the same time;
Joan and Anne and Memphis were all graduating at the same time.
Anne came back and said, "There's going to be some real trouble there tonight
and I advise you not to go."
Canton had been off-limits to white Civil Rights Workers it was bad a town.
It was Ed King's car but since he was pretty well known we had Hamid Kizilbash
who was from Pakistan; swarthy skinned but would be classified as white. He was driving.
I told him to lock his door.
I made sure mine was locked and he didn't lock his door and I didn't check to make sure.
I just assumed he understood.
We had only gone half a block and realized there was a white car waiting to follow us.
It was almost like from the time we entered Canton there was preparation going on
because we were followed from the time I was watching my rearview mirror there was a car
following us all the way to the church where the meeting was to be held and when we came out
and were leaving Canton again the car followed us
until we were stopped at that intersection.
We left after the meeting, headed back to the newly opened interstate,
and the police were not following us, a dearth of obvious policemen around
which was a little unusual, but we realized another car was following us
and somebody got ahead of us.
When we got out to that sort of no-mans-land between the old road and the interstate
we got boxed in and forced to stop.
And then they came back and surrounded us in the car.
They did not identify themselves as Klan but their behavior was Klan like.
They weren't wearing hoods. They didn't need to if they planned to kill us.
The guys came out and pretty much surrounded the car with crowbars in hand.
I guess Hamid had the window cracked and didn't get it up in time or something
but they got the car door open and were beating him on the head.
And they started banging on the car and trying to open the door of my car where I was.
I was not particularly sure what they were up to so I in fact rolled down the window
to ask what was the problem or what did they want and then somebody grabbed me
from my shirt and tried to pull me out
and that's the time that I think Joan and Jeannette and Ed and Eli
all were trying to tell them that I was a foreigner.
A couple of days before the leading politician in the opposition party
in the Indian Parliament
had been arrested in Jackson going to a restaurant.
It had been a deliberate move on his part, anticipating arrest,
following in the footsteps of Gandhi in support of the Blacks in Mississippi
Mississippi and this had not gone over well at the embassy in Washington
which had complained to the State Department which had contacted local police
and politicians... the forces that be in Mississippi.
This was national news. It was also local television news.
They said, "This must be the man on TV tonight."
And I realized, Well, that's an opening.
So in good Christian/Gandhian fashion I lied;
which Gandhi wouldn't have done. He would have offered himself
but if that meant three other people in the car
would be killed I hope Gandhi would have lied.
And so I said, "Oh yes, this is the man that was on TV that the American government
got released from the Jackson police."
And that got interesting to two men at the window
and the others were saying, "What are you all talking about?"
And I kept pushing this that this was the Indian man
and Hamid, even though he was bleeding, was highly insulted.
He was from Pakistan. They had only been separated from India for 10 or 12 years
and he kept saying, "I'm not an Indian. I'm from Lahore, Pakistan, Lahore Pakistan."
One of the men said, "What is that, Lahore, Pakistan?"
And I said, "It's a big city in India, India, India!"
I then got into the rational point that they couldn't kill a foreigner.
And I said, "We know you can kill Americans, that's alright with the FBI and the government,
but the government and the FBI won't let you kill a foreigner.
That will hurt our reputation throughout the world.
The Communists would make a lot out of it."
By this time they've stopped trying to beat him.
They're concerned. They're confused.
They began to say, literally, at the back, "Let's have a party. Let's have a party,"
which meant a lynching party.
And others were saying, "We've got to do it tonight
because this is our way to stop Freedom Summer."
You know, to kill a bunch of people in advance.
And arguing among themselves remarks were made,
"We've got the place. It's nearby. We were ready to do it."
Three weeks later they do it with three Americans.
In the back seat we were just sort of making peace with the Lord.
That was probably the closest to death that I came in the Movement.
Talking about it later we all agreed that we were prepared to die
and that we felt amazing calm about it.
I swore with a second lie that I would never return to do Movement work in that town.
That helped the leaders have an excuse, "Well we got something.
Rev. King has promised to never come back. We'll scare them away."
Once I had been hit on the head there was a little bit of a feeling that
they had gotten something for their trouble.
We were able to keep it onto the interstate and stopped at the state highway patrol which said,
"Gee, if you've got a problem you've got to go back to Canton and report it."
I asked Hamid if he could go through one more thing without going to the hospital.
I was ready to take the wheel if he passed out.
We went to the governor's mansion.
The governor had said there was no violence in the state
and if there was he wanted to be the first person to know.
So, I brought Hamid up to the doorstep, dripping blood on the marble steps,
and tried to speak to the governor.
When the governor's door people understood who we were they slammed the door.
Then we took Hamid to the emergency room.
It just wasn't our time.
God wasn't ready to put up with us.
Three weeks later, in an attempt to stop Freedom Summer and maintain their way of life
the Klan would succeed in killing three Civil Rights Worker:
Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner.
From the time they were missing we knew they were dead.
The government had a big search and all this, "maybe they're alive" business
but within the Movement we knew they were dead.
Just in our gut.
In fact, I remember Bob Moses at the Freedom House on Rose Street in Jackson
when we were having early discussions about recruiting students
in the North to come down.
He was focusing his thoughts on,
"Can we ask these students to come down knowing that somebody is going to die.
We can tell them they're going to die but they really won't understand it
but we know they will. Somebody is going to be dead."
And the memorial service for James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner...
Sunday, August 9, 1964.
Wow. I wasn't there
but when Mickey Schwerner and his wife Rita had first come down to work in Mississippi
the winter or spring before; they were out at Tougaloo.
Everybody with the Civil Rights Movements came through Tougaloo.
It was the only place you really felt free in Mississippi.
And over, I guess at Ed King's house, he was the chaplain,
And so many people were coming through we sort of took turns giving them the orientation.
It fell to me to give Mickey and Rita sort of the orientation:
What You Really Need to Know as a White Person Working Civil Rights in Mississippi.
And I think I did a good job and I know that nothing that I could have added
would have made any difference in what happened but I felt, not really a responsibility,
but an usual connection with them.
We had been by as SNCC folk in route to Atlanta we'd stop in Meridian
at the offices for a pit stop; if it was really late a place to sleep.
So we were closer than average and then for them to be gone
it could have just as easily have been us.
And actually, beyond that, I was in a car
coming back from Canton; deliberately an all-white car
(all the passengers were white) coming back from a mass meeting in Canton.
We left before the curfew went into effect.
Turns out later through some Klan informer
that we were supposed to have been killed that night
to stop Freedom Summer and because we weren't killed our friends were.
So, thinking about Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman hits home real hard.
Now, sometimes people ask if I have any sort of guilt feeling for being alive
when three others died because I lived.
And, no, guilt is not the word but I think I've felt sort of an extra responsibility
to do more in the justice and racial equality end of things wherever I was.
And I'm not focused on this all the time but I think it's sort of at the back of my mind
that I've got to do a little extra for them to promote the brotherhood of man and peace.
There's nothing I could've said or done
that would have made any difference in the way things turned out.
I'm clear on that.
And I've had other friends who were killed or
or severely damaged in their personality by the Movement events.
Those of us who are left to keep up the good fight have to do a little extra for them.
After four long years my mother's time in the Movement came to end.
She arrived in Mississippi as a student and upon graduating
felt that leaving was the honest, full-circle thing to do.
Despite her degree and experience she was hired as a clerk by the Smithsonian
at a lower level than when she worked for the government in high school.
They don't hire women, she was told, because all they do is get married, have babies and quit.
My mother quietly slipped back into society, became a teacher's aide in Arlington, Virginia
and raised five boys as a single mother.
While she doesn't make a big fuss of what of it herself
she understands it's importance to others
but, as she would tell you, she did it because it was the right thing to do.
She saw something wrong and she was determined to do her part
and I don't think you'll find many more people who were as dedicated
and committed to the cause of righting a wrong than Joanie.
Joan could've just glided through life like the rest of them.
She could have felt something but didn't do anything.
She could've gone out and married well and got the right husband and all that stuff.
She could've done all of that.
She said, "There's a wrong that needs fixing. I'm going to go fix it."
That's courage. That's having conviction. That's following through on it.
I applaud that.
She is, in my mind, one of those "sheroes" that demands respect and acknowledgement.
Clearly, she was a lady ahead of her time.
It became a spiritual mission for her
to bring about change in a way that everybody could live with
so that everyone in this society could have a better life.
And she put her life on the line recognizing that she may not be able to enjoy
the benefits of that society, perhaps, but recognizing also that unless she took a stand
future generations would have to suffer through it as well.
I think that's really, for me, the heart of Joan's story.
I'm about as ordinary as they come.
I wouldn't see myself as a hero.
I see myself as a Southerner. I see myself as a mom.
I see myself as a teacher. I see myself as a friend.
And on a good day I see myself as a person who has something to share with others.
It's not just one person that does it all.
It's not just Dr. King. It's not just Rosa Parks.
It's not just Harriet Tubman the way it's taught in school
but that it's lots of people that you've never heard of doing what's right;
going beyond themselves and out of their comfort zone,
making hard choices that causes change.
I saw something was wrong and wanted to try and help make it right.
We have to pick our targets and mine was the Southern way of life.
I don't know why my mother never told me the stories
but when I began asking others if she ever told them I realized I wasn't alone.
So, I decided to ask my mother how it is that she could have helped change countless lives
and yet seemingly keep it a secret from the rest of us.
Perhaps the memories were one she wanted to forget
or maybe she didn't feel that what she did was all that special.
But her reason was much simpler than that
and while it probably shouldn't have surprised me it did.
She simply said,
"You never asked."