2 Freedom Riders visit central Wisconsin

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:40 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Freedom Riders fought to desegregate public transit in the South by taking bus trips throughout the South in 1961. This week, two riders took a different ride throughout central Wisconsin to educate children about their journey.

Charles Person is one of 13 original Freedom Riders who began the movement on May 4, 1961. The 13 men and women took a bus from Washington, D.C. to Birmingham, Ala.

“Our ride ended abruptly in Birmingham because they beat the occupants of the bus and they set the greyhound bus on fire,” Person explained. “Our ride ended there and we ended up flying to New Orleans.”

That bus ride began a movement of over 60 rides throughout the South. Person said the movement was not easy.

“You knew if you were a Freedom Rider, you could either be beaten up, your bus could be set on fire, or you were going to be incarcerated,” he explained. “You knew something was going to happen.”

Freedom Riders consisted of both black and white activists, according to Person.

“Fifty percent were black, fifty percent were white, and a quarter were women,” he said.

Joan Browning was the last person to join the movement.

“I was the very last Freedom Rider,” Browning said. “I was on the very last Freedom Ride, and I was the last person chosen for that.”

Browning and Person visited high schools across central Wisconsin to share their stories this week, along with an event at UWSP at Wausau Tuesday night.

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