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ASBC Helps Commemorate the 1964 Civil Rights Act

School Buses lined up outside the U.S. Department of Education

July 2nd was the 50thAnniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  The American School Bus Council was thrilled to be asked by the U.S. Department of Education to play an important role in their commemoration of the event. 

ASBC liaised with its Member Organizations to procure three buses for the Department of Education to use on their “Civil Rights Ride” that featured six former Freedom Riders and 50 college students who won a competitive essay contest to participate in commemorative events, including a symbolic ride from Washington to Richmond, VA and back.

At ASBC, we frequently talk about how school buses provide equal access to education for all students and that for millions of Americans the school day begins when a child walks out his or her door and onto a school bus.  The Department of Education shares in those views and specifically requested that ASBC identify a bus for use on this trip that was equipped to transport special needs students.  The Department explained that they view special needs students as a critical group in today’s civil rights struggles.  Thus, the first of the three buses we used on this important trip was equipped with a state-of-the-art lift and space for five wheelchairs.

Freedom Rider Charles Person boards a school bus via a wheelchair lift

The day began with an inspiring program inside the Department of Education headquarters in Washington, DC.  Six former Freedom Riders were honored, songs were sung, art was displayed, and a local high school student read a statement from President Obama, who was unable to attend. 

The six former freedom riders who attended were Dion Diamond, Reverend Reginald Green, John Moody, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Charles Person and Hank Thomas.  In the early 1960s, these young men and women (black and white alike) rode motor coaches into the Deep South to non-violently protest segregationist policies and institutions. 

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon chats with Freedom Rider Reverend Reginald Green aboard a school bus

On this trip, however, they rode comfortably on new school buses and fielded questions from motivated college students upon whom the importance of being able to talk to Freedom Riders was not lost.

Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland talks to college students aboard a school bus about her role in the Civil Rights movement

College student DeVon Pruitt from Xavier University (LA) asks Freedom Riders about their experiences during the school bus drive to Richmond

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon answers questions about contemporary civil rights challenges from college students on a school bus

When the buses arrived at the State House in Richmond, the students and Freedom Riders were greeted by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Congressman Bobby Scott, and civil rights leader / former Mayor of Richmond / newly-retired Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh.  A keynote speech about the civil rights challenges faced within the American education system today was made by the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine Lhamon.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott, and civil rights stalwart Henry Marsh addressed former Freedom Riders and a new generation of Civil Rights leaders at the Virginia State House in Richmond

Freedom Riders and college students pose for a picture before the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on the grounds of the Virginia State House in Richmond

After the ceremony at the State House, the buses returned to their starting point at the Department of Education.  It was a memorable experience for all involved, and ASBC is grateful for having been able to help and participate.  

ASBC is grateful to the U.S. Department of Education for making the school bus an important part of this event.

Comments

  1. Teodorico E. Zaragoza's avatar
    Teodorico E. Zaragoza
    | Permalink
    This is a great event worthy of emulation as the school bus is truly a symbol of human right, a right to an easy access to education for all americanm children.

    If I can be guided to a website or a paper that shows formally the policy or practice of having specific designated pick-up and drop-off points of students from their home, like 1 mile for elementary or 1.5 miles for high-school students for everyone to understand the practical reasons for this rule or policy. Please send information to my email address: us.asiamarine@yahoo.com THANK YOU.
  2. Hilliard L Gibbs Jr's avatar
    Hilliard L Gibbs Jr
    | Permalink
    I am looking for information listing African American School Bus drivers who drove school buses in Haywood County, North Carolina from 1948 until 1965. These Bus Drivers transported Black students from Waynesville, NC to Canton, NC to attend high school(Reynolds High School)
    . Any data base historical information regarding or containing this information will be appreciated. Thanks

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