Justice Department Enforces the Law

That summer, the Justice Department succeeded in getting the states to agree not to interfere with interstate travelers, and allow unrestricted, and thus we did accomplish the integration of public waiting rooms.

And don’t we STILL have a long way to go before a person is valued for his person instead of his color, creed or religion?

1    Kasher, Steven, The Civil Rights Movement, A photographic History, 1954-68, p. 20.
2    Ibid, p. 31.
3    Wilkenson, Brenda, The Civil Rights Movement, An Illustrated History, p. 82.
4    Kasher, p. 145.
5    Williams, Juan, Eyes on the Prize, America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, p. 12.
6    Williams, p. 144.
7    Kasher, p. 86.
8     Williams, p. 150.
9     Wilkenson, p. 115.
10    Wexler, Sanford, An Eyewitness of the Civil Rights Movement , p. 130
NOTE: I have been called to task (correctly, I might add) for not crediting the photographers who have taken these images of the Freedom Rides. I am eager to give credit to these individuals if you happen to know who took the pictures I have posted. Send me an email with the information, thanks.

Trip from Jackson, Mississippi to Cincinnati, Ohio

Upon my release, I took the train from Jackson, Mississippi to Cincinnati, Ohio, a very tense ride especially while I was still in Mississippi. I was never more grateful to leave a state than when the train passed from Mississippi into Tennessee, but even then, I was in the South. When I arrived in Cincinnati, to my astonishment, there was a huge welcoming crowd of local civil rights people. Two hefty CORE members hoisted up me on their shoulders and carried me through the great hall of Union Terminal. Talk about culture shock!

Uncertainty About Release Date

I had found that the aluminum cup we were given as our drinking vessel would leave a gray line when rubbed on the cement wall. I constructed a large calendar and illustrated a mural on the wall using this cup. I had calculated that the 40 days (maximum time before which bail must be posted) would be over on Friday July 7th.  I expected to be bailed out on that day. I had heard that if one weren’t bailed out by 40 days, that one would have to serve out a full 6 months in prison. July 7th came and went. Saturday the 8th came and went. I was very depressed… Then, on Sunday July 9th, The guards came in and said that I should get ready to go, that I was being released. That was a joyous moment. I was led to a room where I was given my street clothes back. As I dressed, a guard who had seemed particularly virulent in his attitude to us sidled up to me and quietly said that he hoped there were no hard feelings. He said he was only doing his job, didn’t I understand, and that he didn’t personally hate us. I thought that was a very positive statement for him to say, and confirmed one of the underlying principles of non-violent resistance: that if we appeal to the humanness in each of us, returning courtesy for hateful actions, that hearts can be changed.

Twelve Days of Hunger Strike Ends

After 12 days of fasting, those of us on hunger strike halted our fast under assurances that the justice Department was going to take action to halt the arrests. It was at that point that I began to “experience” the food in Parchman: Breakfast every morning was black coffee strongly flavored with chicory, grits, biscuits and blackstrap molasses. Lunch was generally some form of beans or black-eyed peas boiled with pork gristle, served with cornbread. In the evening, it was the same as lunch except it was cold. After fasting for 12 days, I ate everything with gusto. I discovered that if you pour the molasses on the biscuits in the morning, by the afternoon, the biscuits “crisped up” inside, making what passed for a crunchy sweet. The things we appreciate when limited food is available…

Pamphlet of the Words to Some of the Songs We Sang

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ‘round,
Turn me round, turn me ‘round.
Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn me ‘round.FR4thmb_32_slide0004_image063
Ain’t gonna let segregation turn me ’round,
Turn me ’round, turn me ’round….
BRIDGE: I’m gonna walk, walk, I’m gonna walk walk…
With my mind on Freedom
I’m gonna talk, talk, gonna talk, talk…
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-FR1thmb_14_slide0001_image029talkin’.
Marchin’ on to freedom land

This May Be the Last Time
CHORUS:
This may be the last time.
This may be the last time, children
This may be the last time.
May be the last time, but I don’t know.
This may be the last time we ever sing together
It may be the last time, but I don’t know (2x)
CHORUS:
Martin stood before us, and then he said,
May be the last time, but I don’t know
CHORUS:

Woke Up This Morning
Woke up this morning with my mind, Stayin’ on
freedom
Woke up this morning with my mind, Stayin’ on freedom,
Woke up this morning with my mind, Stayin’ on freedom
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.
There ain’t no harm to keep your mind, stayin’ on freedom
There ain’t no harm to keep your mind, stayin’ on freedom
There ain’t no harm to keep your mind, stayin’ on freedom
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.
I’m walking and talking with my mind, stayin’ on freedom
I’m walking and talking with my mind, stayin’ on freedom
I’m walking and talking with my mind, stayin’ on freedom
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.
BRIDGE: (different rhythm)
I’m gonna walk, walk, I’m gonna walk, walk,
I’m gonna walk, walk, with my mind on freedom
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, with my mind on freedom
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.

I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table
CHORUS:
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table,
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table,
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.
Verses:
I’m gonna tell God how you treat me…
I’m gonna sit at the Woolworth counter…
I’m gonna feast on milk and honey …

We Shall Not Be Moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved (repeat)
Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters
We shall not be moved
Black and White together, we shall not be
moved
Standing up for justice, we shall not be moved
(repeat)…
We Are Soldiers
We are soldiers, in the army
We got to fight, although we have to die
We have to hold up the blood-stained banner
We got to hold it up until we die.
My mother was a soldier,
She had her hand on the gospel plow.
When she got old, and couldn’t fight anymore,
She said I’ll stand here and fight on anyhow.

Which Side Are You On?
CHORUS:
Which side are you on, boy? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boy? Which side are you on?
In Jackson, Mississippi, no neutrals will you get,
You’ll either be a Freedom Rider or a Tom for Ross Barnett
CHORUS
My daddy was a freedom fighter, and I’m my daddy’s son
And I will fight for freedom, ‘til every battle’s won
CHORUS

 

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Paul and Silas were bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
CHORUS:
Hold on, Hold on,
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Paul and Silas began to shout
The jail doors opened and they walked right out
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
CHORUS
One of the days, and I think I’m right
We’re gonna live together, black and white
CHORUS

PDF of the Songs of the Freedom Riders

Songs Sung by 1961 Freedom Riders in Parchman Penitentiary

This is a page of links to YouTube videos of versions of the songs we sang in the Maximum Security Unit of Mississippi’s Parchman Penitentiary.
I especially love those sung by the Freedom Singers, now Sweet Honey in the Rock, lead by Bernice Reagon.

It is a work in progress, so be patient.  If you know of versions more true to the spirit of singing in jail, let me know!

Gospel Plow   Gospel Plow 2

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

This Little Light of Mine

We Shall not be Moved   We Shall not be Moved 2

Which Side Are You On?

Oh Freedom   Oh Freedom 2

I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table

Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Don’t You Mourn

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round     Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round 2   Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round 3

Come and Go With Me to That Land

Certainly, Certainly, Certainly Lord

We Are Soldiers in the Army

I’m On My Way to Freedom Land

I’m So Glad   I’m So Glad 2

Woke This Morning With My Mind, Staying On Freedom   Woke This Morning With My Mind, Staying On Freedom 2

This May Be the Last Time   This May Be the Last Time 2

Hold On

Wade in the Water   Wade in the Water 2

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Freedom Riders: The Music

Freedom Riders (PBS)

Oprah

PDF of Song Lyrics

 

Delegation from Minnesota Inspects Conditions

Later that day, they started shuffling Freedom Riders around. It turned out that they moved all of the persons from Minnesota to the near end of the cell block, cells 2, 3 and 4. I was in 5. The reason for the change in tone now became apparent.  A delegation sent by the governor of Minnesota had arrived to investigate conditions in the prison. They were brought in, and two guards prevented them from going past cell 4. From what I heard, I felt that the Minnesotans were minimizing the seriousness of the mistreatment we had received, for instance failing to mention the DDT spraying incident. I called over to one member of the delegation, suggesting that he tour the rest of the cell block and talk with the rest of the Freedom Riders. The guard said that was not allowed, and they had to limit their conversation with Minnesotans. I called to the delegation that I was sure that some of the other Freedom Riders would have information they should hear. The delegate said that he would have to report that the prison officials were uncooperative if they did not allow the delegation to interview all of the Freedom Riders about the conditions and the treatment of the Freedom Riders.

The Minnesota delegation was finally permitted to interview all of the Freedom Riders.  Some improvements in treatment resulted. Besides getting the screens back on the windows and the bedding as promised, we began to get some mail. However, it was severely censored.  I got one letter which it started Dear David, then the entire body of the letter was cut out leaving a large hole, with the closing good-bye remaining.

Warden is Visibly Shaken

The next morning, the warden showed up again. He said we had gotten off on the wrong foot, and that we should be able to work something out. He smoked a pipe, and I saw that as he tried to fill it just outside of my cell, he was shaking so badly that the pipe tobacco was falling to the floor. Something seemed strange. He said that we would be given back our mattresses, our bedding, our bibles and our toothbrushes. In return, could we just try to keep the singing down a little, and to limit the times during which we sang?

Screens Removed, Plague of Insects, Then We Are Drenched with DDT at 2 am

We were still on hunger strike, and continued singing our freedom songs. The guards became ever more hostile and threatening, banging on our bars with billy clubs. One night, just at dusk, workers came by and removed the screens from all the windows. In Mississippi in June, there are huge number of night insects and especially voracious mosquitoes. Remember that the lights are on in the cells 24 hours a day. Clouds of mosquitoes were a kind of biological torture which none of us had foreseen. We were asked if we would agree to stop our singing, “or else.” We kept singing. The insects came in in droves, and we had no protection what-so-ever.

The “or else” came at the 2 AM shift change. A guard came in and said “Why, look at all them bugs! We’re gonna hafta spray!” Shortly thereafter, we heard what sounded like a large diesel truck pull up outside the cell block, and what looked like a fire hose was passed in through on of the high windows. As the engine powered up outside, we were hit with a powerful spray of DDT.  Being trapped in our cells with no protection, our bodies and every inch of our cells were drenched with the eye-stinging, skin-burning insecticide.

DBF_behind_bars_MG_1454sm MSU_Cell_Block_MG_1714sm thmb_37_View_from_Cell

“Sleeping” Bare Skin on Steel Plate

Unfortunately, during that day prior to our mattresses being hauled out, I had removed my tee shirt.  When my bedding was removed, so was my tee shirt, leaving me in nothing by undershorts. Understand that the bunk beds were constructed of 1/4 inch steel plates into which were drilled numerous 1 inch holes for ventilation. Wearing only my briefs, lying with bare skin on the cold perforated steel plate proved impossible to sleep. While the days were hot, the nights were cold.