October 26, 2020

Freedom Rides Tour a ‘Life-Changing’ Experience

Last weekend, a group of 21 area residents joined 46 Mary Washington students, as well as UMW faculty and administrators, to trace the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. and the organization he co-founded, Congress for Racial Equality. Photo by Lynda Allen.

Last weekend, a group of 21 area residents joined 46 Mary Washington students, as well as UMW faculty and administrators, to trace the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. and the organization he co-founded, Congress for Racial Equality. Photo by Lynda Allen.

Stafford resident Frank White joined the Air Force in 1957, three days after finishing high school. Stationed in Texas, he traveled by Greyhound bus to visit his family in Virginia. For days and nights, he remained dressed in his uniform, sitting quietly in the back as the bus barreled through the deep South.

“Don’t make waves, don’t draw attention to yourself,” the young airman was warned by his African American superiors.

Mr. White remembered those travels as he sat at the front of the bus last weekend, one of 21 area residents who joined 46 UMW students, as well as faculty and administrators, to trace the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides during fall break. This social justice experience celebrates Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor who orchestrated the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel.

After the success of last year’s civil rights trip, James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) Director Marion Sanford and Assistant Director Chris Williams wondered what they could do to make this one even more meaningful. With the 100th anniversary of Dr. Farmer’s birth approaching and the University announcing a centennial celebration in his honor, they decided to dedicate this year’s experience to his signature movement and lifelong commitment to social justice. Read more.