"Solo Bus Ride to Mississippi"
(This excerpt is about my bus ride alone from Des Moines to Jackson, Miss. as I headed for Freedom Summer in 1964)
I was very aware as the bus got closer to Mississippi that the fact that I was a civil rights worker would not be looked on with favor by most Southerners. Also, the fact that three other civil rights workers were missing and probably dead, made me realize the lengths to which people who hated “nigger lovers” would go. Therefore, I made a point not to tell anyone where I was going or why. The lady I sat with on the bus all night was clearly a Southerner. She had a thick Southern accent and I was so diligent to paint a picture of being “on her side” God knew what she might say or do if I told her the truth.
The following was from the journal I kept that summer:
“Boy, that’s where all that trouble is” she drawled - “What do you-all parents feel about this? Course I probably shouldn’t ask - their bein’ from Mississippi”
“No, no” I explained “They’re from Iowa. I never knew Negroes til I went to college”
“You’re lucky” she shook her head - “that’s all we see down here.”
We talked about the young service men on the buses - “Yes, it’s a horrid thing - havin’ to do somethin’ you don’t want to. Course I guess we all are now - with this civil rights stuff. It’s not fun havin’ to do somethin’ you don’t want to”
I remember freezing in my seat when she brought up the civil rights movement. I had been correct to keep my “identity” a secret. Her comments made me even more aware of the hostile and foreign territory I was about to enter