The Long Journey North: The Reverse Freedom Rides of 1962

We cannot change history, but we can make the history. Why can’t we start making history now? My name is Betty Williams, I grew up in Huttig, Arkansas, and I’m a Reverse Freedom Rider. When I came from the South to the North I was about 18 years of age. My childhood was, some parts of it was very fun. Some parts of it was very, very sad. And when I was much smaller, I think those was my really good times. There was 13 of us siblings in all, and I am the second to the oldest. We always played like children don’t get a chance to play here in this city. But then, my mom didn’t have anything there. No education, no kind of work. There was nothing there for my mother to do. – What do you suppose will be the ultimate accomplishment of this program? – The ultimate accomplishment of course has already been obtained, and that is to focus attention on the hypocrisy of the Northern liberals and the NAACP Urban League and people like that especially. – We intend to continue it until those people in the majority tell those politicians we are through with this foolishness about civil rights and things that you’re using for political purposes. Most of the people who came had only a shopping bag, with perhaps one change of clothing, no money, knowing nobody. It was one of the most inhuman things that I have ever seen. My mother was told she was going to have better everything. She was going to have a job, and she was going to be able to support her family, and her children was going to be able get an education, be able to go to school. You know, that alone was not the truth. The first question that most of the arrivals asked was, ‘Where is President Kennedy? We were told that he was going to meet us at the bus.’ She was actually told that that. That Kennedy was going to meet her, wherever she was dropped off in Hyannis, she was thinking that they was going to be there. So. She went to Hyannis. But I don’t know how many Kennedys she got a chance to meet. I guess when you get to be an adult, you just kind of block out things, things you just don’t want to remember. I don’t know what to it is, but I don’t remember a lot about the bus. All I knew I was on a bus, and I remember them giving me a ticket or something like that or whatever, I don’t know. I don’t know how much money they gave me, I don’t remember none of that stuff. – This is me and my mom. That’s me and that’s my wonderful mother who has gone on to be with the Lord. We didn’t really have anything. We just had our clothing, and we didn’t have furniture and stuff like that we could bring here. I think I was a little bit angry when I came here too, because I don’t know, I remember I used to go out, and I used to never smile that much. I never smiled. As I drove one family up one evening, the young son in the family asked me, ‘Where are the cotton fields?’ I said, ‘We have no cotton fields here.’ He said, ‘Well, what am I going to do to find employment? I can chop cotton, I don’t know how to do anything else. When you come here, you have no education, you have no, no, nothing to know how to fill out an application about a job, you have no resumé to put out there. But you just had to get out there, and you just had to find where the jobs was at. When I first started working, I started working as a cleaning lady. And then, I didn’t know that all my life, this is what I was gonna be. We came to the Massachusetts with hope that we was going to have a better life, and life has been, it has been good in some ways, and life has been down in some ways. Life has been a struggle, and life has been up. Life has been down. It has been all of that. Family got into the drugs, alcohol. We was introduced to things that we didn’t we wasn’t introduced to when we was in the South. It has been a journey. But the people from Arkansas that sent us from the South to the North, I have no anger in my heart against them. I don’t want no hatred to live in my heart nowhere. I don’t have no room for that. So I just keep moving forward.

1 thought on “The Long Journey North: The Reverse Freedom Rides of 1962”

  1. Wonderful… thank you. I was 8/9 & remember the Freedom Riders from FAR South Texas in a very JOHN BIRCH Society…. they hated it, but you have to know Brownsville History.

    What HAPPENED in 1920… Tulsa – Brownsville – & other places KILLED or RUINED so many Black People and best I can understand this kind of episode happened everywhere?

    … the fact that this happens to generation after generation is a testament of how our ECONOMIC SYSTEM works badly for the PEOPLE…. Democracy is about BRING Justice to the people and if the Government of the People do not Work for those of us who are BREATHING.
    Then who cares what you call an industry when it's focus is to use people up
    one at time or by the nation and by the continents or by the HANG MEN'S NOOSE.

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