I was listening to Democracy Now this morning and I got to know about a Caucasian Midwesterner named James Zwerg in a lengthy interview with a fellow 1961 Freedom Rider, named Bernard Lafeyette, with DN host Amy Goodman.
Zwerg, which in German means dwarf or munchkin, is a living legend for my fellow Midwesterners back in the USA. Yet hardly any of us know who he is are or was.
Zwerge and 11 others changed American history back in 1961-1962. These 12 disciples (black and white) of non-violence started the Freedom Rider wave that transformed American participation in the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s--a decade of positive activism. They challenged the local and national government to support the Supreme Courts December 1960 decision outlawing segregation on interstate transport.
Incidentally, last month, my alma mater, Bethel College in Kansas, had celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s visit to that Midwestern college campus. MLK's visit took place at Bethel just a year before Freedom Riding first began to leave an impression on American memory.
Jim Zwerg had been attending a small college in Beloit, Wisconsin that same year, 1960. A black roommate there had given him a copy of MLK's STRIVE TOWARDS FREEDOM to read. After reading Kins' work, Zwerg was hooked and as a sociology student, he became extremely fascinated by the Black experience in America, which Zwerg had only peripherally known until attending Beloit.
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