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Civil Rights 'Freedom Riders' Being Honored Saturday by NSBE Chapter

March 14, 2012

Three surviving members of the historic civil rights Freedom Riders group will be honored during a special event on Saturday, March 17, at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's Myers Hall.  The event, from 3-5 p.m. in the presentation room, has been organized by the college's student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and supported by Eli Lilly and Company.  It is free for Rose-Hulman staff and students, while the public is being charged $5 to help cover event expenses.

     Lillard   Simpson Ray   Cason
  Kwame Lillard     Etta Simpson Ray     Allen Cason

The Freedom Riders were a dedicated group of men and women, black and white, young and old (many from university and college campuses) across the country that boarded buses, trains and planes bound for the deep South in 1961 to challenge that region's outdated Jim Crow laws.  They also objected to the South's non-compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited segregation in all interstate public transportation facilities.  The group celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

Freedom Riders Kwame Lillard, Etta Simpson Ray and Allen Cason are planning to attend the event and provide first-hand accounts of their struggles during segregation.  They were among Tennessee State University students that led the Nashville Movement.  Lillard has been a lifelong advocate and civil rights activist, Simpson Rae will bring a woman's perspective to the event and Cason is an Orlando native who risked his reputation, career and life to support others.

Freedom Riders Historical     
   

"We're hoping this event will help Rose-Hulman and the Wabash Valley become more culturally aware, and allow us to thank these dedicated people for setting an example for the civil rights and liberties that Americans enjoy today," stated Grace Johnson-Bann, NSBE chapter secretary.  She is a sophomore biomedical engineering student from Nashville, Tenn.  "These are remarkable people that we have heard about.  They are a little piece of living history about the civil rights movement."

Gilbert Holmes, executive director of ACLU Indiana, will also discuss today's efforts to improve civil rights throughout the state.

For more information, contact Johnson-Bann at johnsog4@rose-hulman.edu or 615-310-5830.

Learn more about the Freedom Riders at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/.