Monday marks 60 years since Freedom Riders were arrested in Mississippi

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Monday, May 24, marks 60 years since the Freedom Riders were arrested in Jackson.

Fred Douglas Moore Clark, Sr., was one of the Freedom Riders from Jackson. He said in 1959, he got more involved in the fight to end segregation on public transportation.

“I went to train under Martin Luther King in the swamps of Georgia when school was out, and from there, I witnessed a lot of things.”

In 1961, he organized a group to get on a bus out of Jackson, but things took a turn.

“I pushed a door on the wrong side, and it made a loud noise and scared everybody. So it put everybody on alert, so the police asked us to get out of the station three times. And of course, we didn’t. So, we were arrested for breach of peace and inciting a riot,” he stated.

On May 24, 1961, 27 Freedom Riders were traveling to New Orleans. When they arrived at the bus station in Jackson, they were arrested. During that summer, nearly 400 Freedom Riders were sent to Parchman.

“We had at least six months in prison, and they tried to kill us while we were in there. That’s a long story.”

Clark said he still remembers sleeping on the floor because the steel burned his skin, and his meals were cut in half.

Another Freedom Rider who was arrested in Jackson was the late Reverend C.T. Vivian. He died last year, but he told his story in newly released posthumous memoir.

“A guard stuck a gun down his throat, and he thought it was going to be all over. Then, he was moved to Parchman prison farm, and there he was beaten with a slapjack,” said Steve Fiffer, the co-author of It’s in the Action: Memories of a Nonviolent Warrior.

Those who visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson can learn more about the experiences of the Freedom Riders.

“It was a formative experience for many of them, and it still resonates today,” said Chris Goodwin with the Mississippi Department of Archives & History (MDAH).

Clark said he is glad that he was a part of something so special. He said we must all continue to fight for freedom.

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