Buses Are a Comin’: Memoir of a Freedom Rider

St. Martin’s. Apr. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781250274199. $26.99. MEMOIR
In May 1961, 18-year-old Person joined the first Freedom Riders. He boarded a Trailways bus in Washington, DC, with a handful of people headed to New Orleans for a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)–sponsored test of the 1960 Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia, which reaffirmed that racial segregation on public transportation is illegal. His vivid memoir is a coming-of-age narrative of eye-opening experiences with Jim Crow, and his growing determination to do something about segregation. It carries readers from his 1942 birth in Atlanta’s Buttermilk Bottom through his enrollment at Morehouse College, engaging in the Atlanta Student Movement’s desegregation sit-ins, and then volunteering for the CORE “Ride.” In almost diaristic style, he details the Riders’ daily routine, personal misgivings, and the camaraderie and community that sustained them against such viciousness as the Mother’s Day bus firebombing in Anniston, AL, as well as the mob onslaught that ended the first Ride.
VERDICT Person’s engagingly rendered, intimate testimony offers a look at the power of character and conviction among grassroots activists who paid the painful price of direct action to penetrate America’s consciousness. His words call for continuing efforts to “do something.”
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