cover image Buses Are a Comin’: Memoir of a Freedom Rider

Buses Are a Comin’: Memoir of a Freedom Rider

Charles Person, with Richard Rooker. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-27419-9

Civil rights activist Person debuts with a striking personal history of the 1961 Freedom Rides in protest of the nonenforcement of Supreme Court rulings banning racial segregation on interstate transportation. The youngest participant at just 18 years old, Person describes vicious attacks by white supremacist mobs against the first two Freedom Rides. In Anniston, Ala., attackers held the doors of a Greyhound bus shut as they tried to burn its passengers alive; in Birmingham, Ala., public safety commissioner Bull Connor gave the Ku Klux Klan “fifteen uninterrupted minutes... to do whatever they wanted to the unwanted black bus riders and their white compatriots.” Person colorfully evokes his impoverished childhood in Atlanta’s Buttermilk Bottom neighborhood, his introduction to the civil rights movement at Morehouse College, and his shading of the truth (“It’s not going to be dangerous”) in order to get his father to sign a permission slip so he could participate in the inaugural Freedom Ride from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans. He also offers intimate sketches of his fellow Riders, including future congressman John Lewis. Shot through with vivid details of beatdowns, arrests, and awe-inspiring bravery, this inspirational account captures the magnitude of what the early civil rights movement was up against. (Apr.)