Freedom Riders Retell Their Civil Rights Story

On 60th Anniversary of the Historic Interstate Bus Rides

Joan Browning, Dion Diamond and Charles Person were college students when they rode interstate buses into the segregated southern states in 1961. The Civil Rights movement was gathering momentum during a period in which Black Americans were routinely harassed and subjected to segregation in the Jim Crow South.

The Freedom Rides began in May 1961 and ended later that year. Their mission was to test compliance with two Supreme Court rulings. Boynton v. Virginia declared that segregated bathrooms, waiting rooms and lunch counters were unconstitutional. In Morgan vs. Virginia, the court ruled that it was unconstitutional to implement and enforce segregation on interstate buses and trains.

The Easton Democratic Town Committee Anti-Racism Coalition along with a bipartisan group of organizations from Easton, Redding, and Weston presented a virtual panel discussion, “The Freedom Riders: In Their Own Words,” on Feb. 4. The focus was on the history-making Freedom Rides and the racial and social justice issues facing the country today.

Browning, Diamond and Person told their stories and related them to present day struggles for racial justice and equality. Nancy Doniger, Easton Courier executive editor, moderated the panel. State Rep. Anne Hughes hosted the event. Jasper Richardson, political director of Weston Young Progressives, participated as a youth panelist.

Wiley Mullins invited the Freedom Riders to attend. He previously hosted Browning, Diamond and Freedom Rider Reginald Green at Covenant Church in Easton in 2017. See the related articles that appeared in the former print Easton Courier, below. Green died in the interim, and Person agreed to participate in the Feb. 4 event.

Topics included why it’s important to take a stand for justice, how to create inclusive and equitable communities and the impact of taking action against injustice. 

Devon Wible, chair of the Easton DTC ARC, organized the event with Sarah Lehberger and coalition members. Wible said it was a great way to commemorate the 60-year anniversary of the Freedom Riders and learn how to further the movement for social and racial justice right now.

“I am also thrilled that we have so much support from our town and surrounding towns,” Wible said. 

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