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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 Helen Singleton in 1961; right: Singleton in 2005

Arrested at the Illinois Central Train Station after riding from New Orleans to Jackson, Miss., on July 30, 1961; photographed Aug. 19, 2005, in Los Angeles — Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Eric Etheridge

Helen Singleton

 

In 1961. Singleton, a 28-year-old freshman at Santa Monica City College, became a Freedom Rider with her husband of six years, Robert Singleton.

In her words. "We went directly into the white waiting room and sat on the bench there. The policeman simply said, 'Are y'all going to move?' He asked us one more time, and we didn't. We were taken to the city jail. The person booking us was using what looked like an elementary school composition book.

"He said, 'What school do you go to?'

"I said, 'Santa Monica City College.'

"He said, 'How do you spell Santa Monica?'

"I was young at the time and thought he should have known how to spell."

Today. Singleton, 78, retired in 1999 and lives in Inglewood, Calif., with her husband. After transferring to UCLA and alternating college with child raising, Singleton graduated in 1974 with a fine arts major and went on to earn a master's degree in public administration from Loyola Marymount University. She developed programs in the arts and humanities for UCLA and worked as a consultant for arts groups.

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