Freedom Ride – Not Just Another Bus Ride

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Who is this woman and why was this mug shot taken?
1961_06_20joanpleune
Joan spent her first two years of college at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. It was 1957 and it happened to be the first year that the state of North Carolina integrated its public universities, in response to federal law, of course. A group of seven Black women was selected by the NAACP to fill the slots at WCUNC (the Women’s College.) One of these women became a close friend and Joan became aware of the courage that these women needed to study at the University and live on campus. In all fairness, the young white women at WCUNC were not overtly hostile to these young women and often seemed to just not know how to relate. After transferring to the to the University of California in Berkeley, Joan decided to return to the South as a Freedom Rider, riding an integrated train and demanding integrated facilities. Was she scared? “I think I was too determined (read dumb??) and too young to be really scared. And by the time we got to Mississippi, I was just stunned (see mugshot).”

Although the freedom riders spent weeks in jail before bailing out, it was necessary for them to return to Jackson, Mississippi for a trial date later that year. The Greyhound Bus Company had difficulty finding a driver for the bus to transport the riders out of Mississippi. No one wanted to drive them out of Jackson – the Greyhound drivers were afraid of mob violence and with good reason. Many buses had been attacked and the riders beaten. There were snipers on the roads. One mob had set fire to a bus in Alabama and tried to burn to death the Freedom Riders inside.

Finally, Joan’s group found a driver and they set off in the middle of the night. As stones started to hit the bus Joan and her compatriots asked the driver not to stop – to just keep going. He thought that a good plan.

– Joan Pleune,
Granny Peace Brigade