Freedom Riders celebrate 50 years - - Jackson, MS

Freedom Riders celebrate 50 years

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Some of Jackson and Hinds County's prominent black leaders are among those gathered Saturday morning on Lynch Street. They're recognizing some people who helped in their success.

"Had it not been for the Freedom Riders, a little cotton pickin' boy from the Delta, Clarksdale Mississippi, would not have risen to be President of the City Council here in Jackson Mississippi," said Council President Frank Bluntson during the ceremony.

A handful of Freedom Riders were present for the event, marking the 50th anniversary of the ride in May 1961. Hank Thomas was on the May 4th rides that originated in Washington, D.C. The bus he rode in was eventually firebombed in Anniston, Alabama. He was 19 at the time.

"I thought it was the last day of my life. I thought I was gonna die that day," Thomas says. "I went to New York to recover. I was at the home of James Peck. When I saw on TV the Freedom Riders were continuing, I had to come back down. I flew down in order to continue on the ride."

Elnora Ross Price, age 26 at the time, was a reluctant participant, passing through Jackson from Tennessee. She was on her way back home to El Paso, Texas. "He said we're the Freedom Riders, and you're going. I said no, I'm going home. He said no, you're going with us," Ross Price says of her experience.

But it was a milestone experience in her life, and the lives of more than 300 other Freedom Riders. 

Some of the Mississippi Freedom Riders were jailed in Jackson. When the jail overflowed, a few were taken to Parchman prison.

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