Sunday, September 3, 2017

Who is Joan Trumpauer?

In June 1961, Joan Trumpauer was a 19-year-old Duke University student and part-time secretary in the Washington office of Senator Clair Engle of California when she traveled to Jackson, Mississippi to take part in the Mississippi Freedom Ride which took place on June 4. Trumpauer and eight others were promptly arrested and refused bail. Trumpauer served three months in a Mississippi jail.

Joan Trumauer risked her relationship with her family, her education at Duke University, and her life (she was actually hunted by the Ku Klux Klan during Freedom Summer) in order to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. 

She later enrolled in traditionally black Tougaloo college, which had just started accepting white students.

On the 14th of this month (September, 2017), Joan Trumpauer will turn 76. 

Joan Trumpauer is still active and travels several times a year to screenings of the PBS documentary, Freedom Riders (which first aired on May 16, 2011) at colleges and libraries around the United States, joining in interactive Q&A sessions with students.

More about Joan Trumpauer:

Just in case it isn't obvious, I greatly admire this American woman.  Hers is the kind of courage I believe we are all capable of demonstrating, and a type of courage we should all strive to demonstrate, in ordinary acts, in our everyday lives.

And to think, the act for which she was punished was simply the exercise of her American freedoms.  Her crime?  She dissented against authority and, in Mississippi, in 1961, she dissented against public opinion.

There is no freedom in going along with the crowd, agreeing with public opinion, or in supporting your government, regardless of its actions.  The only freedom is in dissent.  Dissent is absolutely necessary for freedom to exist!  Ever thought about that?

Joan Trumpauer was standing up for her own rights, when she stood up in defense of others whose rights were being violated.  That's always how we can all best defend our own liberties.  Because We defend our own rights, liberties, and dignity when we protect the rights of those who we may not even feel deserve them, especially those who are powerless to defend themselves.

Joan Trumpauer is an American hero, and one of my personal heroes.

A Jackson Police Department file booking photograph taken on June 8, 1961 of 19-year-old Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer; Photo provided by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (digitally colourized)

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