“I was a white Southerner and I felt we had a responsible to live out the best of our culture, to do unto others that which is done unto you,” said Mulholland during the panel discussion. “I just felt that things were terribly wrong, we were not practicing what we preached.”
Comprised mostly of black and white college students, the Freedom Riders travelled on trains and buses across the South in 1961, determined to break down the barriers of segregation. They journeyed through Virginia on their way to the deep South, including one stop in Lynchburg.
Wearing a T-shirt bearing the word “ERACISM,” Mulholland gave a first-hand account of her role in the Freedom Rides, which got her arrested and jailed at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman State Prison Farm.
“Fear is counterproductive and it slows you down from doing what needs doing,” Mulholland said.
Half a century later, Mulholland is a mother of five sons and has taught for 30 years in Arlington County public schools. She calls her decision to join the Freedom Rides one of the most important in her life.
“The ’50s had been really boring, but suddenly it was like wildfire and who knows what will start a wildfire,” she said, urging the younger generation to continue the fight against prejudice. “Something will happen. Be ready for it and look out for it,"
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Freedom Rider Joan Mulholland speaks at Central Virginia Community College
As the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Freedom Rides, continues, Freedom Rider Joan Mulholland shared her experiences with an audience at Central Virginia Community College this week: