Freedom Rider: Charles Person, 1961
I grew up at a time when America needed scientists, and I had always wanted to be a scientist. I had worked in high school to get the kind of grades. I was in special mathematics, I was in a pilot program where they were teaching calculus to high school kids, or analysis it was called then. So I was geared toward that type of work. My SAT scores and my GPA were good enough to get me accepted at MIT, but Georgia Tech was also the number one engineering school in the South, so I applied to Georgia Tech, and of course rejected my application. So I could not understand, here we were competing with the Russians, because the Russians had launched Sputnik, and we say we needed scientists, yet I was being denied an opportunity to go to a school which I was imminently qualified to go to, so that gave me the impetus to get involved in all the civil rights activities that were happening on campus.
Interview with Charles Person for the Freedom Riders 40th Anniversary Oral History Project, 2001. Freedom Riders 40th Anniversary Oral History Project, Archives and Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries.
In the summer of 1961, the Freedom Riders, a group of mostly young people, both black and white, including Charles Edward Person, risked their lives to challenge the system of segregation in interstate travel in the South. Person was the youngest Freedom Rider on the original Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Ride. A gifted math and physics student, with aspirations to become a scientist, he was a member of his local NAACP Youth Council in high school. As a freshman at Morehouse College, Person became active in the civil rights movement, joining a student organization called the Atlanta Committee on Appeal for Human Rights and was on the CORE Freedom Ride, May 4-17, 1961. His memoir Buses Are a Comin': Memoir of a Freedom Rider was published by St. Martin's Press in 2021.