Meeting the Freedom Workers
by Rita Walker

[Rita Walker and her husband Sid went on to become SNCC organizers.]

I always wanted to work for my freedom, but I didn't know how to go about it. I often heard about the freedom riders on TV and read about them in the newspapers. And I would wonder if they would ever come to Holly Springs [Mississippi].

Then the people began to say, they will be here before long — but before long seemed like forty years. I always pictured them coming in a bus with "FREEDOM" written on it. I would meet with some of my friends, and we would go up to the bus station and wait for them so that we could welcome them in. The time would grow old, and no bus told of freedom riders. So we would go home sad and wonder what day we should go back and start looking again.

That went on and on for quite a while, and one day a friend of mine told me, "I seen them!" I said, "Slow down a while and tell me what you are talking about." And he said that the freedom riders are here.

I asked if they came on a bus, and he said, "I don't know and don't care just so long as they are here." And I asked, "Well, how can I tell them when I see them?" He told me that the girls have shoulder bags and the boys have SNCC pins on their clothes and papers in their hands, asking people to sign some papers.

After that I hardly got anything done for watching the door and window to make sure they wouldn't miss my house. Finally one day I saw two boys coming down the road, and I ran to the road and said, "Hey fellows, come here for a minute."

They moved slowly towards my door, and I said, "Come in and have a seat." And they said, "No, because we are all wet from the rain." And I said, "If it's all right with you to sit, it's fine with me because water won't hurt the couch."

One of the boys said, "This is my friend Dave Kendall, and my name is Hardy Frye, and we work for COFO, and we have some freedom registration forms, and you could read them if you would like."

I said, "Never mind reading. If you are a freedom rider, just let me sign." Dave was white and Hardy was Negro.

Hardy told me it was too good to be true, and I said, "What do you mean?" And he answered, "Usually when we go to people's houses, they say, 'My white peoples told us not to fool with you all, and all that stuff.'" Those that didn't say that would shut the door in their faces.

Then Hardy asked me if I would go down to the courthouse in two or three days and register, and I said, "I will stick with you all like a stamp sticks to a letter."

Copyright © Rita Walker 1964

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