Freedom Rider; A Life Lesson

May 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured

The below post from is a powerful read in many different ways.  It is a study in commitment, community and self-discovery. The post is an excerpt of John Blake’s 2004 book “Children of the Movement’.  It contains the story of James Zwerg, now 71, a white Freedom Rider.

In 1961, the Freedom Riders – a group of black and white college students – set out for the Deep South to call for change. They were met by hatred and violence — and local police often refused to intervene. But the Riders’ efforts transformed the civil rights movement.  Through it all they maintained their focus on their non-violent mission of riding together.

James Zwerg was drawn to the Freedom Rides after having a black roommate while attending Beloit College in Wisconsin. He grew to admire his roommate and was shocked to see how his black friend was treated by whites when they went out in public together.

James’ decision to take part in the civil rights movement put him at odds with his family.  But what he considered to be right was more important to him.

As the bus pulled up in Montgomery Alabama, a mob was already waiting for them.  Looking out the window James knew he had to summon his commitment and courage to go through what he and his fellow riders had set out to do.  Connecting to a higher power and his ideals gave him the strength to follow through.  Even though he has brutally attacked he held on to his beliefs. And his beliefs gave him shelter.

Jame’s father had a heart attack when he heard of what had happened with his son.  While the father survived the guilt James carried for the pain he thought he caused haunted him for many years.  It wasn’t till he decided to deal with his feelings that he found love and forgiveness for himself and others.

Today, James thinks back to that time as the most vibrant in his life.

Here is a man who commits to something with everything he is and has, because he believes it is the right thing.  It is not a belief that will solely benefit him.  It is a belief that could change the life of a nation.  And so even when the obstacles and costs seemed insurmountable, he carried on because of his commitment to his belief and to others.  James was part of a community and individual gave the other the strength to continue on.

That type of singular commitment and community can transform the world.

Very poignant and inspiring story.  Please read on…

Shocking photo created a hero, but not to his family

(CNN) — The mob was already waiting for James Zwerg by the time the Greyhound bus eased into the station in Montgomery, Alabama.

Looking out the window, Zwerg could see men gripping baseball bats, chains and clubs. They had sealed off the streets leading to the bus station and chased away news photographers. They didn’t want anyone to witness what they were about to do.

Zwerg accepted his worst fear: He was going to die today…Continued

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