Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women Joan Trumpower At A Woolworth's Lunch Counter In Jackson Mississippi May 1963

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Joan Trumpower was a Freedom Rider. That is a picture of her(in the middle)and two other Freedom Riders getting the royal treatment welcome at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Jackson Mississippi in May of 1963.
Here is some more information on her and the other Freedom Riders.
She was first arrested in 1961 and sent with others to Parchman Farm in Mississippi.
Now she is honored in Mississippi. See below.

Freedom Rider Returns To Mississippi. See below.

More info on the Woolworth sit in. With more on the pictures below.

Click on the photos above to enlarge them.

Below is a statement she wrote for the Civil Rights Archives.
Joan Trumpauer Mullholland age 60
I was born in Washington, D.C and I live in Arlington, Virginia. Down home is Georgia. Most of the relatives I knew were old line Georgia. I’m a teaching assistant in an elementary school, English as a second language.

My mother’s side of the family was your stereotypical Georgia redneck, that’s the only way I can put it, Pentecostal. I think that exposed me to a lot of the rural Deep South, hearing them express their attitudes and religious fervor. My father’s side of the family was more college-bred Iowa. My folks had met in Washington, D.C. during the Depression. Though my closest identification was with the Georgia branch, I also had this relationship with the other side of the family. My Iowa family cancelled out my Georgia family.

My involvement came about from my religious conviction, and the contradiction between life in America with what was being taught in Sunday school. I was at Duke University in Durham, which was the second city to have sit-ins, and the Presbyterian chaplain there arranged for the students from NTC to come over and talk with us about what the sit-ins were about and the philosophical and religious underpinnings. We had to keep pretty quiet because you could be locked out of the buildings, or burned out or any number of things on campus. At the end, they invited us to join them on sit-ins in the next week of so, and that started a snowball effect. Duke and I became incompatible over this, and dropped out and was working in Washington, D.C. actually in Senator Ingalls office, involved with a group called NAG. Hank Thomas was going on the Freedom Rides, and we thought this was a big joke and gave the poor guy a hard time, he was off on this cushy all-expense paid vacation because exams were over, and ho ho ho, but we quite laughing with Anniston.

People from my group, Paul Dietrich, John Moody going down to Montgomery, and my apartment had a direct off-campus phone which was a clearinghouse for the Washington, D.C. who joined the Freedom Rides.

By the time I went things were rolling a bit, and we flew to New Orleans with Stokely Carmichael, I like to say that I brought him to Mississippi. We flew to New Orleans and had a little orientation there, then took the train in. We got arrested. The part that really sticks in my mind was I was 110 pound with curly blonde hair, very Southern looking, and after they arrested me, stepping out of the paddy wagon at the jail, and the police officer reaching out to help me down the high step, and saying “We don’t want anything to happen to you, little lady,” and then catching himself and realizing he was being a southern gentleman, and I was a Freedom Rider. This horror-struck withdrawal on his part. So, it was two months and I think $200 fine in my sentencing. Since I had already been accepted at Tougaloo, I would serve the two months, and work off the fine until time for school to start and pay the rest. So with the clothes on my back, I enrolled at Tougaloo.

We were in Death Row, the first group that went to Parchman. When the paddy wagon was going up, and he turned off the main road off into the rural, and pulled up at somebody’s house, and who knew what was going to happen. We sure didn’t know what was coming at Parchman, the rest was pretty standard. In my mind it was the physical conditions, as far as the space, the bunk, the cleanliness, and the food was far superior to the jail which we just gotten so crowded we had as little as 3 square feet of floor space per Freedom Rider which made sleeping interesting. So it was much nicer facilities, but I think the psychological pressure of knowing how isolated we were, and that we were on Death Row, was intimidating, and took its toll on us to varying degrees.

You had a white roommate if you were white and a black roommate if you were black, but the cells were alternated, white cell and a black cell. There weren’t that many women, compared to the men, and we really did not get the brutalization that I understand the guys got. We did have our mattresses taken once, they sort of toyed with us as it were, but there was not the inhumane brutality. When we came in that was the worst.

We had organized lecture times, singing times, quiet times, and you had all the Bible you wanted to read, and debates and discussions. It was a very vibrant crowd in many ways, a lot of different experiences and backgrounds, like the college professor who would give us lectures, and those who had been in the Southern movement could tell tales. There was a lot to talk about, different opinions, politically and socially. Of course, with a rotating group of people, new people came in and people left.

I was known as sort of the Jackson movement secret weapon, because I couldn’t carry a tune, so if you wanted to run off the cops, let me get up front and sing loud!

June 8th (arrest) out in early September, late August. The closest you could go to the start of the school year. There was a day or so in Jackson when you got rested, and washed up and they had clothing available for you, but no more than a couple of days or so at the Freedom House rented by SNCC and that whole crew. Whoever was in town stayed there.

I don’t remember much about Jackson, except I got a pink flowered dress that was really nice to get, that someone provided so I had two sets of clothes. I went so quickly to Tougaloo and that was an impressive change in my life, and that’s what sticks in my memory. I graduated in ’64, and even with the summer of ’64 and I was involved in some of the planning that had led up to it, but having finished school, I felt that that was the right time for me to leave.

The first part was people getting used to white students, and figuring out why we were there, and were we for real, and were we going to stay. A whole new phenomena, for many of the black students it was the first time they had been in this situation with black and whites living together on equal footing. So there was a novelty aspect, but certainly by the second year. I was sort of on my own, there were people who didn’t like me, but it wasn’t necessarily based on race, my charming personality. I think I was accepted quite well, I joined a sorority, I had a roommate who said when you first came, I questioned, it, but we’re still good friends.

My family was completely against it, it was “You’re still our daughter if we can help you, or if you need something,” what have you, we will offer that help. Once I got into Tougaloo it was like I was kicked out of the family, except for sending me money to come home, like for a holiday or something, then doing their best to talk me out of this whole thing. Real tension existed even when I was out of school, and out of every day movement life, having kids. It started to soften by about the third kid, but my mother was quite elderly telling somebody “Oh, Joan’s statue is in this museum, and where is that? Memphis?” And that was proof to me that she really had Alzheimer’s because she was bragging on this. And at no point until then had I gotten anything but cold criticism. We had danced around the whole topic for years but by then I knew she was around the bend by bragging on it. Unfortunately, she was bragging to a cousin who was visiting who happened to be, probably, a Klansman, if not close to it, so that was uh...different!

(On the reaction from her children)

I think aside from being something they could throw up to me whenever I brought up an objection to something, I think it really influenced them positively, to do your own thing, do what’s right for you, accepting people, stepping outside the box and feeling free to go of and do what they wanted to do with their lives. This really fed into that, and they’ve certainly done that. No matter what revolution or war was going on, they went off and did what they wanted to do and thought was right.

I think in the way I look at things, I’ve found very often that I’m not thinking in the middle-America, white mold. This has made me much more often to accepting whatever changes have come along. With the school I work with, there are no majority population, and I can relate to whichever group comes in and see problems that are building, a subtle misunderstanding that has taken place, and think of ways to change things. I remember once it must have been late 70s or early 80s we were having some workshop on the human relations committee in the county schools and there were games that we played with everybody lined up in two rows, facing each other. You closed your eyes and a statement was read out, and if you agreed with it, you stayed where you were, if you disagreed, you took a step back. At the end of twenty questions, you opened your eyes and all the blacks were up front, and all the whites had moved back except for me, and I was up front with all the blacks. It was a black and white setting, there was no other groups at that point. And that was sort of startling, to me as well as everyone else. And that really affected, engrained, my thinking process, and that’s just an example.

I think the main thing that I’ve taken out of it is not rebellion or going against the system per se, but looking at things honestly and not limiting your view of what the situation is, but being able to hear things differently, and independently, and acting accordingly. I think that’s what I try to instill in my students, the kids that I’ve worked with in the schools for twenty years. You have to define your problems yourself, not let someone else define the situation for you. Seek solutions that will improve the situation, not what appears to be temporary gains,...I think today, after September 11, this really come true.

The school where I was is about a mile from the Pentagon, and in the direct flight pattern, the school shook when the jet flew over headed to the Pentagon. Everybody was at work, so the principal was running around calling out small clusters of teachers from the classrooms to talk to them. He told us the Twin Towers were gone, and the Pentagon had been hit. Teachers were literally falling on the floor crying; eventually they did pull themselves together and go back into the classrooms, including teachers whose husbands were at the Pentagon. I thought this is not me, and walked up to the principal and said “After the sixties, I’m probably the calmest person in the school, if you need anything call on me.” I was completely gone, I realized that after the sixties, it was a survival thing to step back, disassociate yourself with it and do what needs doing. The only other two people who were as equally calm was a lady whose family had been involved with the Sandinistas, and a guy who had been imprisoned on the wrong side of the government in Ethiopia, and the three of us were fine. And I think this was the strength that came from the movement, and this is what we need to be able to do is step back, disassociate yourself with it and do what needs doing.