From left, Freedom Riders Kredelle Petway, Fred Anderson and Barbara Bowie take questions from the student audience.
As a part of Black History Month, Sherman High Schools students listened to first-hand accounts of Freedom Riders, civil rights activists from the 1960s.
Students asked questions to a panel on February 10, organized by the Bowie Scholarship Foundation. Kredelle Petway, Fred Anderson and Barbara Bowie, who organized the event, took questions in two sessions. They were involved from a young age in civil rights activism and shared their experiences and thoughts about their historic actions.
Leading up to their visit, SHS English teacher Sandra Truly organized a full curriculum in English and US History, including creating posters and studying literature from the period. The Foundation has also offered a scholarship this year via an essay contest.
The Freedom Riders were groups of white and African-American civil rights activists who protested segregated bus terminals in 1961 by taking Freedom Rides, bus trips through the heavily segregated American South. When they stopped at bus stations, the Riders tried to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters. They were met with violence from mobs and police arrests.
The Freedom Riders visiting Sherman were part of the group that rode through Mississippi. There, some were arrested for using whites-only facilities, and the judge refused to listen to their defense and sentenced them to 30 days in jail. Appeals went all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the convictions.
The Riders’ perseverance and the violent reaction to their cause drew national and international attention and drew more to their cause. In the fall of 1961, regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals were issued.