Saturday, May 7, 2011

Freedom Riders: May 1961

[She was a senior at Tennessee A&I State University when the first Freedom Ride — planned to fight for the right of African Americans to travel across state lines on trains and buses while using the same seats, bathrooms, water fountains and other facilities as whites — was knocked off course in May 1961 by a wave of brutal violence in Alabama, her home state.

She and other Nashville college students — veterans of the sit-in movement to desegregate downtown lunch counters a year earlier — decided there was too much at stake and they had to keep the Freedom Rides alive. So the students made plans to travel from Nashville to Birmingham, Ala., on a Greyhound bus May 17.

Also at stake that spring day were the young riders' lives.

"I didn't want to die, now," Burks-Brooks, 71, recalled, "but I didn't have any fear of doing what I had to do. I knew what was happening was wrong. And I had an opportunity to do something about it."]

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