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Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review: Buses Are a Comin' : Memoir of a Freedom Rider by Charles Person, with Richard Rooker

Charles Person was one of the original Freedom Riders, and the youngest at 18. An Atlanta native, he did find it ironic that he traveled to DC to travel back through Atlanta, and on to the deeper South, during this test of an unenforced Supreme Court decision, that declared buses and bus stations should not be segregated. He had no idea how it would change his life.

As a young college student in the 1960s, he'd grown up firmly under the jackboot of Jim Crow. Naturally, he'd both resented and accepted it. But after getting rejected from Georgia Tech solely due to his race, he was fired up. He and a friend did peaceful lunch counter sit-ins around their campus. And when they heard about the Freedom Ride project, they both applied, and Charles was accepted. He got his dad's permission and fibbed to his mom. 

The ride started out peaceful. There was no trouble in Virginia, and very little in North Carolina. It started just over the border in Rock Hill. And it did not end in New Orleans as planned, but instead it ended in Alabama with Sheriff Bull Connor and a great deal of bloodshed.

It's amazing to get a real inside account of this seminal event of the Civil Rights Movement. The beginning with his background dragged a bit, but when it gets to the ride itself, it really began to sing. Mr. Person unfortunately does have a tendency to use three metaphors when one (or none) would do, and flit off to extemporizing about the meaning of things and the inspiration when more straightforwardness would have served the book better. But those are minor bumps in an otherwise inspiring and meaningful memoir about a life-changing and world-changing act of bravery by a dozen or so people, who saw America needed to move forward, even if it was painful.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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