Haley Barbour to Freedom Riders: ‘We apologize to you for the mistreatment in 1961’
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Haley Barbour to Freedom Riders: ‘We apologize to you for the mistreatment in 1961’

Jackson : MS : USA | May 24, 2011 at 10:01 PM PDT
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Haley Barbour Apology to Freedom Riders

Haley Barbour, the Republican representative and 63rd Governor of Mississippi, apologized on behalf of the people of his state to the Freedom Riders who were assaulted and imprisoned for protesting against segregation in Mississippi fifty years ago. The governor spoke at a reception arranged in honor of the Freedom Riders Sunday evening in Jackson.

"We apologize to you for the mistreatment in 1961 and we appreciate this chance for atonement and reconciliation," Barbour told the Freedom Riders.

Barbour also thanked the Freedom Riders for their historical bravery, commitment and sacrifices.

"Our state does celebrate and thank you for your courage, your commitment, your sufferings and your sacrifices of 50 years ago," Haley Barbour said.

The Republican governor also stated that he deemed those coming back to Mississippi this week would endorse the transformations that have materialized since the Freedom Ride of 1961. The changes, he said, changed the attitude and perception of people, shunned differences and paved the way for a better future for all races without discriminations.

It is pertinent to note that 50 years back, the Freedom Riders were detained in Mississippi and sent to Parchman for their struggle against segregation. Haley Barbour invited the Freedom Riders to his residence for breakfast on Monday.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides of 1961 and events surrounding the anniversary have extended into a vigorous and optimistic observation. The observed positive change perfectly fit into the take of Barbour that “there is a chance for atonement and reconciliation.”

It is noteworthy that celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Rides have been going on with recreation of the freedom Riders’ route by students throughout the nation. Furthermore, celebrations have been noted among various communities and a documentary about the subject went on air on a public television.

The celebration and observance of the historical Freedom Rides are specifically significant for Mississippi. Reports suggest that, this week, those partaking in the reunion are set to stick to a number of social and educational services. Moreover, Mississippi plans to distribute unique Freedom Trail markers at the Greyhound Bus station and the Medgar Evers Home Museum.

The harsh memories and reflections on a time of abhorrence, intolerance, violence and racial discriminations justify the efforts of apology and settlement today. In fact, many issues pertaining to racism and social relations still linger, however, the nationwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides demonstrate not only that change is possible, but also educates the new generation the lessons that can be learnt from historical accounts.

Kamran Ahmed is based in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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