Interview with Dave Dennis
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

SO YOU WERE, YOU WERE THEN IN MISSISSIPPI AND YOU WERE ONE OF THE UM, WHAT THEY CALLED THE FREEDOM RIDERS IN MISSISSIPPI, AND FOR TALKING TO OTHER MISSISSIPPIANS THE FREEDOM RIDERS MEANT SOMETHING SPECIAL. TALK ABOUT HOW WHEN YOU CAME BACK TO THE STATE, BEING A FREEDOM RIDER, WHAT THAT MEANT TO THE MISSISSIPPIANS THAT YOU ENCOUNTERED.

Dave Dennis:

Yeah well when I first got on the, became a freedom rider I guessed that the uh, personally I have to deal with it in terms of my first introduction to it, and uh the uh, I was at the time I was a uh student at uh Diller University in New Orleans, And a member of uh, the New Orleans chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. Uh with a number of people on the rides like a Doris Castle, Retha Haley, and uh Jerome Smith and others, and uh, at the time the buses that were burned in Anaston, Alabama, the people who were on that bus were brought into from Alabama into New Orleans uh for medical care and other things. They had been briefly treated in Anaston after the buses had been attacked. So that was my real first introduction of seeing all these people coming in, you know beaten, bleeding and uh, everything. At that time though I was not anxious to become a freedom riders I must say, I wanted to do what I could to help the people there and um, my friends Jerome Smith and others came and got me one night at uh, Diller University and they began to talk about going on the freedom ride or Joining the people in Montgomery, Alabama. There was a lot of news that it was under Marshall Law and everything is, and I was not willing to go. I must admit that I was not a volunteer. But they began to buy drinks for me and one thing after another, next thing I knew to make a long story short is, I was on a train and getting off in Montgomery, Alabama, in a little stupor of drunkenness. I guess you know and that. As I got off the train there was these marshals coming but I didn't know they was just a whole bunch of whites so I ran back on the train. So they took me off and after that is when we got into sessions in Montgomery and uh with King and Farmer and most of the leadership and most of the uh people in SNCC and CORE were involved at that time. And the peop—large arguments whether or not the freedom rides should continue well no, we should not, what are we gonna do with it? And from there is there was a lot of orientation regarding uh, I guess what you might say of preparing oneself for that, not just in terms of participating in a -continuous movement but it was a strange type of preparation. Everybody I think there uh, in a sense were prepared to die, and it was really saying, because no one had any feelings that of getting on those first two buses, that you were gonna be able to go and get out of it. It was like a death kind of scene. Everybody knew that this is a suicide mission in a sense. And some people came so indoctrinated, I guess the most uh, interesting thing that had the most effect on my life from that point on in terms of commitment to the movement was after we got into Jackson Mississippi and uh, and I guess a lot of people did not see a lot of things, they were expecting something else to occur and it didn't occur. Well, once we were in this holding cell there were a number of people, uh, several of them, can't recall their names now, who just really just freaked out because the fact is that they were still alive and they could not believe they were alive and on top of that is they conditioned themselves to such an extent to die. I mean I saw one person just start beating his head against the wall, you know, I'm dead, I'm dead, girls start pulling, just pulled a handful of hair out. It was one of those kinds of things of being—the preparation there was to die for a cause, that I've never seen occur before and never did see it again until you know in Mississippi, I think that everybody who worked in Mississippi at that time is to the people who were very much involved in the movement uh, had that same type of feeling you know from day to day.