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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 Margaret Leonard in 1961; right: Leonard in 2007

Arrested after riding from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss., on June 21, 1961; photographed May 3, 2007, in Tallahassee, Fla. — Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Eric Etheridge

Margaret Leonard

 

In 1961. Leonard, an 18-year-old sophomore at Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, had participated in several CORE demonstrations there. Her parents were both newspaper reporters; her mother, who wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal, was known for her "integrationist" views.

In her words. "My mother was scared for me. So when I was in the Hinds County jail in Jackson, she called them up a lot to see how I was doing. She made it real funny, but she wanted them to know, 'We're watching to see how you're treating her.'

"Everybody called me Sissy. And she would call them up and say, 'Now Sissy likes scrambled eggs, she doesn't like fried eggs.' And the guy said, 'We don't have no scrambled eggs here.' "

Today. Leonard, 68, is retired and lives in Tallahassee, Fla. Following in her parents' footsteps, she spent most of her career as a newspaper reporter and editor, first at the Chattanooga Times and later for the St. Petersburg Times and other Florida newspapers.

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