Reverse freedom riders on their way to New England boarded a bus in New Orleans in 1962.
“When two planeloads of asylum seekers were flown to Martha’s Vineyard last month, Peola Denham Jr. recognized an echo of his own experience from six decades ago — one nearly forgotten in the long history of Black Americans’ struggle for civil rights. ‘What really took me back,’ recalled Mr. Denham, 73, ‘is that when the people got to their destinations, they didn’t get what they were promised.’ The migrants on Martha’s Vineyard, who were primarily from Venezuela, found themselves repeating history, pawns in a political fight. The promise — as dozens of them would later recount to lawyers and journalists — was of jobs and resettlement help. Instead, they arrived with no warning to the community, which nevertheless scrambled to find them food and shelter. For Mr. Denham, in the spring of 1962, the promise came in the form of bus and train tickets offered to his family and other Black Southerners by members of the White Citizens’ Council, a segregationist group, to take them to Northern and Western states where many were promised jobs and housing. That’s how Mr. Denham, at 12 years old, found himself on the Southern Pacific Railway from Baton Rouge, La., to Los Angeles, along with his father, stepmother and nine siblings. They were among a couple hundred participants in what came to be known as the reverse freedom rides, a segregationist political stunt that had ripple effects across generations of Black families, and whose parallels were noted by historians and others after the migrant flights touched down in Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Denham’s memories of his train ride and its origins are hazy. His stepmother, he said, was interested in the tickets because she had relatives in California. …”
POTIICO: A Lesson From the Past for Ron DeSantis
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