NOLA Resistance Oral History Project: The Freedom Rides


♪ Woke up this morning withmy mind stayed on freedom ♪ – The Freedom Ride was
supposed to take place on May 4th, from
Washington, DC, and end up in New Orleans on May 17th. Well, it didn’t happen that way. When one bus reached Anniston,
Alabama, the bus was bombed. When it reached Birmingham,
the riders were beaten. None of the bus drivers
would drive the Freedom Ride, so Attorney General Bobby
Kennedy had Eastern Airline fly them to New Orleans. New Orleans trained over
40% of the riders who went from New Orleans to Jackson,
Mississippi, and after the passage of the ICC
ruling in September 1961, I became what I call a tester. We tested throughout Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, and to Beaumont, Texas. We stopped in McComb, Mississippi. McComb was the stronghold
of the Ku Klux Klan. We got there to the Greyhound terminal. Jerome went in to purchase
our return tickets. After that, the four testers went in. We went to the lunch counter, sat down. George Raymond say to the waitress, “May I have a cup of coffee, please?” The manger came out and said, yelling, “Greyhound does not own this
terminal! Please leave!” George again say to the waitress, “May I have a cup of coffee, please?” Young, white Mississippian
went to the coffee maker, poured a cup of hot coffee,
walked behind George Raymond, poured the hot coffee
over his head, and hit him in the base of the neck
with the coffee cup. Four or five–maybe even
six–guys jumped Jerome, beating him with brass knuckles. ♪ Steal away, steal away ♪ I guess George Raymond
had seen how badly he was being beaten and stepped in
to take some of the blows, and I think that really
saved Jerome’s life. When we finally got out of that terminal, we were being chased, but
when I rounded that corner a group of black people encircled me. I think they saved my life. Driven back to the White
Castle Hotel and Cafe, was treated by a Dr. James Anderson. After Dr. Anderson had
finished treating Jerome, Jerome turned to me and say, “Get Bobby Kennedy on the phone.” And I looked at him like, man,
you had one too many hits. He again say to me, “Get Bobby Kennedy on the phone.” And I’m looking at him, so
he call out this number. I had my pad, and I wrote down the number. Dialed the number,
expecting a receptionist to answer the phone. This man voice came on the other end. I say, “My name is Doratha Smith, “and I’m calling for Jerome Smith.” He say, “I’m aware of the situation. “There are FBI agents out
front waiting to take you “back to New Orleans.” Being all of 18 and a
half years old, I say to the attorney general,
“Oh no, they won’t. “We’re going back to New Orleans
the way we came–by bus.” ♪-Segregation, -gation, -gation. ♪ ♪ Get on board, ♪ ♪ Get on board.♪

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