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Freedom Riders

Mother's Day is the 45th anniversary of the bus burning here in Anniston, AL. Today, the only Freedom Rider that is still alive, Hank Thomas, came and spoke at our school.

In 1961 Anniston was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, where even some of the police were members. The mission of the Freedom Riders was to make sure that public facilities in the South were complying with the recent Supreme Court ruling. Needless to say, the folks in Anniston weren't going to comply. The Ku Klux Klan surrounded the bus, beat in the windows, lit the bus on fire, and then chanted "Burn them <negroes>!" Once the Riders got off the bus they were savagely beaten with clubs, bricks, rakes, and whatever else the mob had. Once the Riders were taken to the hospital, the mob baracaded the doors in and threatened to burn the hospital down. These men were so racist that they would kill over 300 white men, women, and children to kill 3 black people. The Freedom Riders were eventually smuggled out of Anniston in the dark of night.

Hank Thomas received a letter three years later informing him that he had been drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. The letter told him how the people of Vietnam needed not to be treated as second class citizens in their own country. The people of Vietnam ought to have the right to vote, the right to go wherever they want, the right to eat in whatever resturant they wanted to. The writer put that Hank was "lucky to be an American citizen" so that he can enjoy those liberties that the Vietnamese can't. In post script the government appologized for the bus burning with a simple "We're sorry."

In 1994 Thomas and other veterans returned to Vietnam as a symbol of the friendship between the U.S. and Vietnam. The North Vietnamese veterans begged our forgiveness as they spoke the only English they knew, "No more war, friends now." During the Vietnam War, the only thing that seperated soldiers was the color of the uniform, but in the United States the color of their skin seperated them. It's really sad to think that the United States was fighting wars for other countries' citizens' freedoms, when we couldn't even give it to our own.

Hank Thomas said that he wanted to meet the people who burned their bus and beat them. Not for revenge, but for reconciliation--for forgiveness... as did the North Vietnamese. longest post ever...
A couple news stations were there so I might have a link in a little while.

Sounds pretty cool. Sounds like a waste of a bus though! I would have taken it off this hands!

Sounds a historic learning kind of way.

Hmm, interesting. History is always fun to learn about.

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