Freedom Riders defied injustice, changed history - FOX 13 News

Freedom Riders defied injustice, changed history

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Fifty years ago, a fearless couple took a stand against a shameful and outrageous injustice. They risked their lives to do what they thought was right. Now they're being honored for their defiant stand in the civil rights movement, and their story is What's Right with Tampa Bay.

Dave and Winonah Myers can't believe half a century has gone by. To them, it feels like yesterday. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.

In April they, and more than 400 of their fellow riders, traveled to Chicago to be honored with a weekend reunion. Dave and Winonah wouldn't have missed it.

"Because we had 438 people in Mississippi arrested, we had 438 reasons for being there, and 438 experiences, no two alike and it was just fascinating, after all these years to hear the stories of the various people," said Freedon Rider's Dave Myers.

The freedom ride was a peaceful movement against the segregated south in the early 60s.

They'd sit with blacks in forbidden areas of bus terminals, restaurants, and public rest areas. And now people came from all over the country to be part of another memorable event.

"We were scattered. We came from everywhere, and went back to everywhere, so it was good to know that there were others like us out there somewhere," Winonah Myers said.

Some people they met for the very first time. But they definitely recognized a few faces.

"There were those people we had been in jail cells with and had served a lot of time with them in prison, and hadn't seen them since prison 50 years ago so it was great to see them," Dave said.

But for Dave, his fellow cellmates weren't the only thing the reunion brought back.

"It always brings back bad memories too. The thing it always brings back with me was the fear at the time," he says.

The Freedom Ride was dangerous and violent. They were arrested for disturbing the peace as they silently sat alone in a section of a bus terminal marked "for coloreds' only."

Almost all the people at the reunion had suffered similar stories. But somehow that only deepened the bond between them.

"I think that we had a feeling that we were a part of something that really had a big effect on America," Dave said.

And although they've long been out of jail, the Myers know the fight isn't over.

"Segregation and all that still exists, but it's not as palpable as it was in the 60s. It's not as simple as black only, white only toilets and drinking fountains, and where you can sit on a bus," Winonah said. "I had hoped that we would have come a long way further than we have."

The world may not be rid of all unfairness, but the impact Dave, Winonah, and the other Freedom Riders made will never be forgotten. There are fewer than 200 of the original 438 Freedom Riders left. But all of them changed history.
 

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