Johnny Ray James of Louisiana boarded a yellow school bus Wednesday morning and took a seat behind his heroes — Freedom Riders and other veterans of the civil rights movement who traveled to the South 50 years ago on a mission to battle segregation.
“It took people like that who were not particularly from the Louisianas, the Mississippis and Alabamas to come down,” said James, 26, a native of Monroe, Louisiana, and a recent graduate of Louisiana State University. “My forefathers of Monroe and of Louisiana were the people who had to actually live down there.”
James was among dozens of students chosen to participate in a symbolic bus ride from the U.S. Department of Education to Richmond, Virginia, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The students accompanied civil rights activists, including some Freedom Riders, who challenged the South’s non-enforcement of Supreme Court rulings declaring segregated public buses unconstitutional in the early 1960s. They were beaten and jailed, and their buses were firebombed. (The Clarion Ledger)