Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Freedom Rider and Georgia native Joan Browning will present a program entitled “Oh, Freedom” at the University of West Georgia’s Ingram Library on Monday, Nov. 5, at 3:30 p.m. The program is sponsored by the UWG History Department, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ingram Library. This event is free and open to the public with special public parking available in the Townsend Center gated lot, beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Browning, who grew up in rural South Georgia, will speak on her involvement in the 1961 Freedom Rides and other initiatives within the civil rights movement, as well as, the experiences that led her to the black freedom struggle. Between May and Dec. 1961, 436 Freedom Riders on sixty different Rides filled jails in the South and succeeded in taking down the “white” and “colored” signs in transportation waiting rooms, lunch counters, and rest rooms and on trains and buses. Four of the 436 Freedom Riders were white southern females, Joan Browning being one of them.
Browning, a 1959 graduate of Lumber City High School, was the first in her family to attend college. However, her college career was cut short when she was asked to leave Georgia State College for Women in 1961 after worshipping at a black church. She moved to Atlanta in 1961 and became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). On Dec. 10, 1961, she was among eight Freedom Riders who traveled in a segregated railroad car from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia. Upon their arrival in Albany, the Freedom Riders were arrested, incarcerated, and eventually charged. Browning continued to work in human relations and anti-poverty programs throughout the 1960s.
Joan Browning earned her bachelor’s degree at age 52 from West Virginia State College. She now team teaches Civil Rights Movement history courses at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and writes and lectures on civil rights, women’s issues and local history. In 2000, her memoir appeared in the autobiographical collection “Deep In Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement,” published by The University of Georgia Press.
This program is in conjunction with the national exhibition Freedom Riders, on display at Ingram Library Oct. 16 through Nov. 13. The Freedom Riders exhibition was created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, in partnership with “American Experience.” Major funding for the traveling exhibition was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.