The Foot Soldier’s Journey: Facing Civil Rights History

Arts & Entertainment
LaSalle Public Library
305 Marquette St. / LaSalle, IL / 61301
Laura Frizol
May 14, 2013
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Courtesy of: Thomas Armstrong

Without the personal choice that thousands of ordinary people made to get involved in building a more just and democratic society, the civil rights revolution would have been reduced to a bungling group of individuals and would not have been possible.

Autobiography of a Freedom Rider: My Life as a Foot Soldier for Civil Rights by Thomas Armstrong and Natalie Bell, focuses on the early life of Mr. Armstrong, a native of Silver Creek, Mississippi and the first resident of the state to join the Freedom Rides in 1961. Shortly after his decision to publicly confront segregation, he was forced to leave home in fear of his life. Friends and family members didn’t hear from him for decades, and thought he’d disappeared, never to return.

Mr. Armstrong will discuss his involvement in the early days of the struggle for racial integration in Mississippi, hoping to inspire younger generations to realize the personal power of civic engagement. “We were ordinary people, both black and white in the South, who made it happen,” he said, “not unlike the high school, college, and university students of today.”

Thomas Armstrong III is a veteran of the early 1960s civil rights movement in his native Mississippi, the very heart of white resistance in the South.  As a student at historically black Tougaloo College from 1959-1963, he joined a small group of colleagues and faculty members who launched early protests for voting rights and equal public accommodations. These were demonstrations led by NAACP leaders, such as the late Medgar Evers, and peopled by ordinary men and women of the South, both black and white.

He is a retired transportation contracts manager, having worked at the United States Postal Service for 37 years. These days he mostly spends time with his family, helping neighbors, and volunteering at the American Red Cross.  He has provided presentations on Civic Education and Engagement at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL. the university of Illinois, Springfield Illinois, the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary, Jackson, MS and Chicago, IL; Mississippi State Dept. of Archives and History, Jackson, MS; Historic Prentiss Institute All School Reunion, Prentiss, MS; Hue-Man Bookstore, New York, NY; as well as many Churches, Town Halls, Cultural and Civic Centers, Colleges, and Libraries throughout the States of Illinois and Mississippi.

This program is made possible through funds from the Alwin C. Carus Trust.  This program is free and open to the public.  For further information, please contact the Library at 223-2341.