Civil rights activist relates experiences during visit

Charles Person was one of original Freedom Riders


Photo by Herschel Mapp

Charles Person sitting down in front of a crowd of 300 plus on Friday.

Story by Anthony Patterson, Staff Writer

How much does your freedom mean to you?

To Charles Person, one of the original Freedom Riders of 1961, it was worth putting his life on the line.

Person spoke about his experiences Friday to more than 300 students and teachers at East Meck as part of a focus on civil rights.

Person, who was born and raised in Atlanta, was only 18 when he set off to change the country and join the Freedom Rides. Persons was a student activist and part of the Congress of Racial Equality.

During his speech, Person spoke about the trials and tribulations that went along with the rides. In one instance while trying to desegregate restaurants and buses, he and other freedom riders had cigars and cigarettes put out on their bodies.

Another time, Person said that opponents set the bus on fire while he and other members were on it.

When talking about the experiences they had during the journey, Person showed the inner strength of the freedom riders. He explained how sometimes white riders were beaten more than the black riders because opposing whites felt as if they were traitors to their race.

In spite of what happened, Person is a very forgiving man to those who assaulted him. “Before I leave this earth I would like to meet with any of those involved,” he said.

Person also gave advice to others seeking change in today’s society. He expressed how defining your goals for change and what your group symbolizes is an important key to completing change.

You, yes little you, have the ability to change the world,” Person said.