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10 Freedom Riders: Then and Now

50 years ago, young civil rights activists boarded buses and trains to beat Jim Crow

Left: Police photo of Charles Sellers in 1961; right: Sellers in 2007

Arrested at Hawkins Field Airport in Jackson, Miss., on July 21, 1961; photographed Feb. 16, 2007, in Berkeley, Calif. — Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Eric Etheridge

Charles Sellers


In 1961. Sellers was a 37-year-old history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he'd been active in the local CORE chapter, challenging discrimination in stores, housing and other targets. He served three years in the Army during World War II and later earned degrees at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In his words. "When I was in high school, I went to an NAACP meeting in a black church, which was packed with three or four hundred people. An imposing gentleman, who was introduced as Bishop Gordon of the AME Zion Church, got up and preached the most powerful sermon I had ever heard.

"I was one of only two or three white people in this enormous congregation, and I guess this was a 'scales falling from my eyes' kind of experience that I never got over. I was in dissent with my society from that time on."

Today. Sellers, 87, retired in 1990 and still lives in Berkeley. He is the author of The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America 1815-46 and a two-volume biography of James K. Polk.

Next: "I was young." >>

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