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Freedom Rider Patten Brings Story to SCSU Community

Abby Faulkner

ST. CLOUD – A member of the Civil Rights Movement’s groundbreaking Freedom Riders addressed St. Cloud State University today.

The legendary Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States. Their message? Challenge the status quo of racial segregation with nonviolent action.

The fight continues. On Wednesday afternoon, Ernest, or Rip Patten, one of these riders, brought his story and message to the SCSU community.

Patten explained how, while laws existed outlawing interstate segregation, authorities did little to enforce them. The Freedom Riders fought the system by riding public transportation through the South beginning on May 4th, 1961 from Washington, D.C.

At the time he joined, Patten was a music student and drum major in heavily segregated Nashville Tennessee. During his time as a rider, he saw police arrest other riders without reason and and watch as they’d endure attacks from white mobs without reason.

The fight paid off. Within the year, the Freedom Riders made great strides. Black passengers were allowed to sit wherever they wanted on mass transit, signs came down, segregated drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms were eliminated, and station lunch counters began serving all customers – regardless of skin color.

The story of the Freedom Riders has since been made into a film of the same name, and Patten devotes time to public speaking events to carry on the legacy.

At the heart of Patten’s talk is peaceful social change – he hopes the actions of the riders will continue to inspire people to use nonviolence to challenge injustice.

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