Freedom Riders witness Evers-Williams trail unveiling - - Jackson, MS

Freedom Riders witness Evers-Williams trail unveiling

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Fifty years ago young men and women from across the country converged on the South, traveling specifically to Mississippi to fill up jails and change a way of life.

Monday, the Freedom Riders returned to Jackson to mark and witness history.

Surrounded by dozens of Freedom Riders, Myrlie Evers Williams unveiled the second Mississippi Freedom Trail marker that stands in the yard of the home she shared with her civil rights martyr Medgar Evers.

The wife of the slain activist thanked the dozens of men and women, black and white, who worked for integration and returned to the state 50 years later.

Most were students from as far away as New York and California bound for Jackson.

"The impact from the vision of seeing that bus that was fire bombed in Anniston; I think that sort of brought out the youthful excitement about us wanting to participate," said 71 year old Freedom Rider Rev. Reginald Green Sr., who boarded a bus in Virginia.

"It was about us coming down packing the jails and forcing the Kennedys to get serious about civil rights," said Rick Sheviakov, a Freedom Rider from California who is now 68. "They wanted it to go away, and we wouldn't let it."

Jesse James Davis lived in Jackson when he was arrested for trying to integrate the bus station.

The 69 year old now lives in Fishkill, New York.

"Hinds County Jail, I spent two days there and we went to court," Davis said. "We were sentenced to six months, and I spent 39 days in Parchman on death row."

The Freedom Riders said they were ordinary people on a mission to change Jim Crow laws.

"I was arrested at the Jackson trail station. I was with six other Freedom Riders," said 68 year old Freedom Rider Candida Pugh originally from San Francisco. "We were all white so we had to go to the waiting room marked colored."

Many returned for the first time remembering those tumultuous times but relieved by the change.

Later they join Evers-Williams at the Smith Robertson Museum where she cut the ribbon on the Freedom Sisters exhibit.

She is among 20 African American women recognized for their contribution to advancing civil rights.

"I would expect perhaps a young child of age five or six might come through this exhibit and be inspired in some way by something that will kick in later in like," Evers-Williams said. "You never know what's out there. That's why you have to keep pushing." 

The interactive traveling exhibit features a recreation of the Rosa Park's Montgomery bus ride.

You can learn about Harriet Tubman and other women of the movement.

"How do you learn? From things that happened in the past so you won't make the same mistakes," Evers-Williams said. "How do you learn? So you can be inspired by things that happened and people who did things positively for the future."

A third Mississippi Freedom Marker will be unveiled Tuesday at the Greyhound Bus Station in Jackson.

Freedom Rider activities continue through Friday.

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