An Evening With The Freedom Riders - - Jackson, MS

An Evening With The Freedom Riders

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By Maggie Wade - bio| email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - They were college students committed to desegregating bus and train stations and other facilities in 1961. Thursday night many of the Freedom Riders from around the country, Mississippi and the city of Jackson came to the Alamo Theater on Farish Street.

They shared songs from the movement and the dangers of being beaten or possibly killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and angry mobs. One bus was firebombed and engulfed in flames and smoke in Alabama.

Hank Thomas was on that bus. He also talked about spending weeks in prison at Parchman. Hezekiah Watkins of Jackson was 13 years old when he was arrested.

"I was taken to Parchman and put on death row for trying to by a ticket from the Greyhound bus station but being on the wrong side which was the white side," said Watkins.

"The prosecutor asked me how did I plead, and the judge interrupted me and said you're guilty don't waste my time. And that was my, I think that took all of, less than one minute in the court, and I was sentenced to 6 months in Parchman," Hank Thomas said.

The Mississippi Freedom 50th Foundation is planning a celebration in honor of the Freedom Riders in May, 2011. There were more than 400 Freedom Riders who came through Mississippi in 1961, at least 300 were sent to Parchman. We'll have more on the Freedom Riders on our newscasts Friday.

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