by Laura Hutson
Waller Law Firm has organized a Martin Luther King Day tribute that will reunite leaders from the Civil Rights movement. Titled “It’s Our Turn,” the panel will be moderated by John Seigenthaler, and includes panelists James Lawson, Diane Nash and Rip Patton, three Freedom Riders and participants in the Nashville sit-ins of 1960. Featuring firsthand accounts of the civil rights movement and memories of King himself, it should be a dynamic precursor to this year’s Martin Luther King Day events.
To brush up on your familiarity with the Freedom Riders, re-read Angela Tuck's Scene cover story on the movement and its 50th anniversary from 2011. Here's an excerpt:
By the time the Freedom Rides ended in December 1961, more than 400 people had joined the protest that started with 13 people, including Lewis. A ruling that September by the Interstate Commerce Commission — a direct result of the rides — put a stop to long-held practices that kept blacks and whites separate. The Freedom Rides marked the first time black and white Americans joined forces en masse to protest racist conditions.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the widely reported violence that rained down on the peace-abiding Freedom Riders — vicious, vehement, and hostile beyond reason — pricked the conscience of the nation. For the first time, the Kennedy administration fully recognized the extremity of the South's entrenched institutional bigotry.