Thomas Madison Armstrong

CORE, SNCC, NAACP, 1959-63, Mississippi
Current Residence: Naperville, IL
Web Site: A Foot Soldier's Journey

Oral History Interview
Why I Am Proud of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

I am a veteran of the early 1960s civil rights movement in my native Mississippi. I participated in many Sit-Ins, marches voter registration drives. I was one of the first three Freedom Riders, 6/23/61, Jackson, MS. that lived in the state of MS.

As a student at historically black Tougaloo College from 1959-1963, I joined a small group of colleagues and faculty members who launched early protests for voting rights and equal public accommodations. These were demonstrations led by leaders, such as John Mangram, Edwin King, and the late Medgar Evers, and peopled by students, ordinary men and women of the South, both black and white.

The Freedom Rides of 1961 signified one of the most historic events in the Civil Rights Movement and in 2011, as one of the Tougaloo Four riders who defied segregation laws in a bus terminal I awaken from silence in the form of Autobiography Of A Freedom Rider an inspiring memoir. My book illuminates a shockingly dark era of U.S. history while celebrating the everyday heroes who lifted the veil of oppression for generations to come.

I did not speak publicly about my civil rights experiences for more than 37 years. I have only broken my silence at the urging of family members, and out of my own concern that the history is being oversimplified to but a few names of icons.

Since I began responding to invitations to talk about my experience in recent years, I have conducted intergenerational discussions about the personal power of civic education at such places as the Freedom Riders Teen Town hall Webcast at the National Underground Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH, sponsored by the National Museum of American History.

I have provided a civil rights presentations for the world renowned Sidley Austin Law Firm, the sixth-largest U.S.-based corporate law firm with approximately 1700 lawyers; Mississippi State Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS; Historic Prentiss Institutes All School Reunion, Prentiss, MS; Hue-Man Bookstore, New York, NY; as well as many Churches in Louisiana and Mississippi

I have provided presentations on Civic Education and Engagement at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.; North Central College, Naperville, IL.; Northwestern University, Naperville, IL; Town Halls, Cultural and Civic Centers, Colleges, and Libraries throughout the States of Illinois and Mississippi.

I am a Civic Education Consultant who works with teachers and students to learn about the civil rights movement. Personal and professional development is enhanced by those choosing to participate.

I am a retired transportation contracts manager, having worked at the United States Postal Service for 37 years. These days I mostly spend time with my family, helping neighbors, and volunteering at the American Red Cross.

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