In 1961 Dodie Smith-Simmons wanted to be a Freedom Rider. A native of New Orleans, she had joined the local youth chapter of the NAACP at age 15. Now she was 18, a member of CORE and a veteran of marches and sit-in. But instead of going to Jackson and getting arrested, she worked behind the lines. New Orleans was an important staging city for the campaign, a way-point for Riders coming from the west coast and elsewhere. Smith-Simmons and her CORE colleagues housed and fed the Riders on their arrival, trained them in nonviolence, then put them on trains and buses into Jackson.
When the federal government announced on September 22 that it would finally enforce the law, abolishing segregation in southern bus and train stations, it appeared that Smith-Simmons had lost her chance. But Mississippi provided nothing if not opportunities for Civil Rights activists. Many cities continued to segregate their stations, so New Orleans CORE began sending Riders back into Mississippi.
On November 29, 1961, Smith-Simmons and four others road a Greyhound bus to from New Orleans to McComb, Mississippi. On arrival they were denied entrance to the station’s waiting room due to a supposed gas leak. They returned a bit later and successfully integrated it, at which point they were attacked by a gang of whites and driven from the station. Claude Sitton, the New York Times reporter who had covered the Rides all summer, described the scene as a repeat “on a smaller scale [of] the riots that greeted Freedom Riders last May in Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.”
The Riders managed to escape without any help from the McComb police, who were nowhere to be found, or the FBI observers on hand, as always, to observe and nothing more. But if they were paying attention that day, they did get to see Dodie Smith-Simmons become a Freedom Rider.
Above, Dodie Smith-Simmons photographed outside the old bus station in McComb on April 16, 2012.
Confederate monument in Hill Crest Cemetery, Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi.
The earliest version of the monument was dedicated in 1876. It was finished in 1901.
Confederate monument in Cleveland, Bolivar County, Mississippi. Dedicated in 1908.
Dead upon the field of glory. Hero fit for song and story.
No nation ever rose so free from crime, nor fell so free from stain.
The panel under the lower-right soldier reads:
A testimonial of our affection and reverence for the Confederate soldier, the memory of whose brave deeds and heroic life, and the principles which he sacrificed so much we bequeath our children through all future generations.
John Doar was an Assistant Attorney General from 1960 to 1967, and was deeply involved in Civil Rights cases in Mississippi during those years, as well as elsewhere in the South.
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