Cary McGehee Featured in Detroit Free Press on Historic Freedom Tour

When Diane Nash trained volunteers for the 1961 legendary Freedom Rides through the segregated South, she knew it would be dangerous. "I gave them a quick course in nonviolence and how not to get demoralized in jail," then sent the riders on Greyhound and Trailways buses, she said. They were met by hostile police, jeering bystanders, snipers, bloody beatings and the firebombing of one bus. But they drew worldwide attention. Ultimately, the Freedom Rides -- along with sit-ins that Nash helped lead at whites-only lunch counters in Nashville, where she attended historically black Fisk University -- made big dents in segregation. Nash said that her recollections of those days will be part of a speech she will deliver Sunday at Marygrove College in Detroit. It is part of a fund-raiser for the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. Funds raised will help pay for a bus trip through the South this summer for 35 Michigan students, who will visit sites of civil-rights history and retrace the Freedom Rides' path, coalition leaders said. In 1965, Nash also helped organize a voting-rights march in Alabama, which began on what's now called Bloody Sunday, when police on horseback beat marchers as they crossed a bridge in Selma, she said. "The '60s hold many important lessons for us today," said Nash, 74, of Chicago. Nonviolent resistance remains a potent means of social change, but it's often ignored amid today's swirl of politics, lawsuits and sound bites, she said. The Freedom Rides were immortalized in the Public Broadcasting Service documentary "Freedom Riders" in 2010. About 450 black and white people -- many of them college students -- risked their lives -- and some endured savage beatings and jail time -- while traveling together on buses and trains through the South. This year, high school and college-bound students and adult mentors will leave Detroit on June 16 for the 2013 Freedom Tour, said Cary McGehee, board chair of the coalition. Among the stops will be the King Center in Atlanta, the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala., which honors the late Detroiter Rosa Parks for triggering a boycott of public buses in that city in 1955; and a memorial near Selma in memory of Viola Liuzzo, the Detroit homemaker killed in 1965 while she was in the South to register black voters, said McGehee, a civil-rights lawyer in Royal Oak. "We won't retrace all of the Freedom Riders' route, but we'll see a lot of it," said McGehee, whose late father, the Rev. H. Coleman McGehee, founded the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. Teens who applied for the trip are a diverse group of youths from Traverse City, Lansing, Flint and metro Detroit, said Eric Hood, communications chair of the coalition. "I wanted to go myself, but there's only so much room," Hood said with a laugh. The coalition needs more sponsors to buy a student's bus seat ($1,500) or to make lesser donations toward the tour, Hood said. This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Please click here to view the original article.

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