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Southeast students hear history from Freedom Rider

Southeast students hear history from Freedom Rider

Freedom Rider at Southeast Southeast students heard stories about U.S. history from a person who helped make it. Hank Thomas is one of the original Freedom Riders who protested racial segregation by taking buses through the South in 1961. He and other Riders would sit at segregated lunch counters and participate in other peaceful protests. Click here to watch more about Hank Thomas’ presentation to students.

“I saw it as just another thing to do to break down segregation,” Thomas said. “The older I get, the more significant that becomes for me.”

“I couldn’t be served at a lunch counter, even though I served my country in Vietnam.”

Thomas shared stories of what happened during the rides, including having the bus set on fire and people holding the door shut so they couldn’t get out. He said people came out of a church to watch them burn and no one tried to help them get out.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “This is my America. There are not many places where you can see white, black, Hispanic, Muslims and Jews living together.”

“All of us need to join hands and when we do that, we’ll bring about change together.”

Thomas stressed the importance for students to get their education and to set goals and follow them. He shared that he started out working at McDonald’s as a cook, but worked his way up, eventually owning several McDonald’s, other restaurant franchises and several hotels.