The first-hand experience of Freedom Rider Judith Frieze as told to Lois Daniels. “The Came the Moment I’d Feared,” was published in the Boston Globe as a part of a series describing Frieze's experiences fighting for civil rights in the South. The second part of the series was published on July 31, 1961.
The text of page 1 reads as follows:
Hub Freedom Rider’s Ordeals–II
Then Came The Moment I’d Feared
HE SAID: MOVE ONE–WE STAYED
Back from the maximum security ward of the Mississippi State Penitentiary, Judith Frieze tells in this exclusive Globe series how she left her Boston home a few days after graduation from Smith College last June and wound up in the Dixie as a Freedom Rider.
In the first instalment [sic] in the Sunday Globe, Judith explained that she wanted to do something for civil liberties–not just talk about them.
In today’s instalment [sic] she recalls how it all started out: the ride, the arrest, the imprisonment.
By Judith Frieze
As told to Lois Daniels
(Copyright 1961, Globe Newspaper Co.)
We were the first group of Freedom Riders to enter Montgomery after the rioting.
A crowd of 4000 irate Southerners and no police protection were likely to greet us We had no way of knowing.
If there had been such a large mod, we probably would not have dismounted. But Wyatt warner us to be prepared for anything.
RIDER Page Six
The text of page 2 reads as follows:
Judith Almost Integrated Mississippi Prison Cells
RIDER Continued from the First Page
We were not supposed to strike back if we were attacked.
The men were told to form a ring around the women, and we were instructed to try and protect Mr. Schwarz[‘s] child.
The crowd is most likely to be angry with a white man, Wyatt said.
Secondly, they would vent their feelings against the Negro man.
We white girls were the least likely to be attacked.
”But if you are separated from the group, scream real loudly,” Wyatt warned.
”This might arouse their sympathy and they wouldn’t harm you.”
I was really scared, but I vowed I wouldn’t show it.
We arrived in Montgomery. The anticipation was worse than the actual event, and I had calmed down by then. As it turned out, conditions were not so bad after all.
There was a small crowd of only about 400 people, and fortunately, there was plenty of police protection.
I removed my suitcase from the rack and started for the waiting room. But a “bomb scare” kept everyone out, whites, Negroes, even Freedom Riders.
It was getting late. Wyatt told us we would spend the evening in Montgomery and not leave for Jackson until morning. The riders all split up, each of us staying with a Negro family.
The next morning we set out for Jackson, and I set about to psychologically prepare myself for arrest.
So many riders had tried to integrate the bus terminal waiting room in Jackson lately that the procedure of arrest was quite routine.
We knew what to expect, and, in this case, there was no fear of violence.
We arrived in Jackson, left the bus, entered the waiting room, and prepared to integrate the facilities.
Here, there was no commotions.
Capt Ray walked over to us–we were all standing in the white section–and said: ”Are you-all gonna move on and move out of this heah [sic] station?”
We told him we had no intentions of going anywhere.
”Are you-all gonna move on and move out of this heah [sic] station?” he repeated. Only not as cordially as the first time.
No one moved.
”Did you-all heah [sic] me,” he asked.
Again there was no answer from our group.
”Then, you are all under arrest,” he said.
A wave of relief spread over me.
I had looked forward to, and yet feared, this moment. At last it had come and I was glad.
The police officers took our name and we were taken to city jail.
We had our moment of triumph, however, for we integrated the patrol wagon on the way–our whole group traveled together!
Fingerprinting, “mugshots,” [sic] and interviews awaited us at city jail.
I assumed this was common procedure when one was put under arrest. I had only read about it before, though, and now it was happening to me. It was strange and, in a sense, unbelievable.
I told the interviewer my name and address and little else. It seemed he was trying to trip me up.
When he asked whether I believed in a Supreme Being, I answered that the question was irrelevant to the interview. He wanted me to answer no: he wanted to label me an atheist, or eve worse, a Communist.
The Freedom Riders are neither, they are a peace-loving group. But I couldn’t seem to convince my interviewer that this was so.
I spent the night in the city jail, in a segregated cell, as are all prison cells in Mississippi.
Our group was tried the next afternoon and given the maximum sentence, four months and a $200 fine. We had 40 days in which to appeal our sentence, if we so wished.
An incident occurred on the way to Hinds County Hail that has never ceased to amaze me, and probably the officers who accompanied us on our trip.
The jailer segregated us as we entered the elevator for the ride to jail, but I was included among the group of Negro girls.
We arrived at the cell bloc and were standing in groups prior to entering our cells.
I laughed secretly to myself.
What if the jailer never noticed his mistake and out me in the cell with the Negro girls because I’m darkhaired [sic] and very tanned.
I would have integrated Mississippi prison cells, and have had the last laugh after all.
Suddenly the jailer stopped. He whirled around and pointed at me. “Is that girl?” he screamed at Mimi.
He had discovered his mistake. He pulled me out of the group and pushed me into the proper cell.
How silly segregation is, I thought, when the Southerners don’t even know who to segregate from whom!
My home for the next six days was a cubicle, approximately 13 feet by 15 feet. It was meant to house four prisoners. There were 20 of us.
It was June and it was hot.
Although there was a shower in the back of the cell and we could shower every day, I felt dirty every minute I was there.
We each received a clean sheet as we entered the cell, and that was all.
The linen was grey with filth, outmatched, perhaps, only by the mattresses.
And there were plenty of them. The cell had four cots in it, each topped with a scrawny, filthy mattress. We put the three largest girls on three of the cots and two of the little girls on the remaining one.
The rest of us–the 15 medium-size girls–slept on mattresses on the floor. We lined them up, side by side, and allotted two mattresses to every three people.
I was tired and slept soundly that night, despite the strange and uncomfortable conditions.
I dreamed though, and wondered what the next day would bring.
NEXT–Judy hides her “prison diary” in the hem of her jacket. And the authorities at the state penitentiary fail to find it.
Permission for use granted by The Boston Globe.