Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 7: Jackson, MS - New Orleans, LA

Miles today: 200
Total: 1700

Touring around Jackson, we saw the bus terminal where the Freedom Riders were arrested in 1961. We walked around Jackson State (a public, historically Black university), where two people were killed after the National Guard fired dozens of rounds of ammunition into a dormitory in the wake of Vietnam war protests around the time of Kent State (but much less known), and Tougaloo (a private HBCU).

We then headed to McComb, MS. McComb was a new stop for us this year, and we learned so much. McComb is located in southern Mississippi near the Louisiana border. It was a hotbed of violence and activism, and much of the voter registration activism around the 1964 "freedom summer" happened in and around McComb. Activist Anne Moody worked in this area, and her experiences that summer are chronicled in her autobiography Coming of Age in Mississippi (she also attended Tougaloo for a couple of years).

McComb was a real inspiration to us not only because of the people we met but also because of their great efforts to commemorate the movement and the community that's formed behind that commemoration. We met with a half dozen activists at the wonderful Black History Gallery, a house filled with personal memorabilia that folks have collected and donated for this purpose. It's a great look at what community members can do to preserve and tell their own histories. They also have a wonderful brochure for CR sites for a driving tour, and I would highly recommend this stop for these movement veterans' overflowing hospitality and inspiration. Sitting around the living room with movement veterans scattered between us will stay with us for a long time.

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