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Meridian, MS

'Difficult, but necessary': Freedom Rider reflects on group's legacy

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Meridian Star
Meridian Star
 1 day ago
photo credit: Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History A mugshot of Peter Stoner following his arrest in Jackson, Miss., on July 2, 1961. Stoner spent time in the Parchman penitentiary as a result of his involvement in the Freedom Rides. 

Freedom Rider Peter Stoner, who is retired and lives in Jackson, doesn’t remember stopping in Meridian, but believes the civil rights activists made an impact in society.

Stoner was born in Berlin, Pennsylvania and went to school at the University of Chicago. He transferred to Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss. to join the Freedom Rides, he said.

“My experience was difficult, but necessary,” said Stoner, who was arrested in Jackson with fellow Freedom Riders. “We sought to create a better America for all people, mainly through voter registration and demonstrations. The Freedom Rides helped bring public attention to segregation in the busing system in a way that made the federal government obligated to stop it. The publicity forced the federal government's hand, especially given that President Kennedy ran on a platform of equal opportunity. His administration couldn't stand by as this very unjust situation was happening in the South. So the Freedom Rides forced Kennedy to act on the matter.”

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