In 1961 Dodie Smith-Simmons wanted to be a Freedom Rider. A native of New Orleans, she had joined the local youth chapter of the NAACP at age 15. Now she was 18, a member of CORE and a veteran of marches and sit-in. But instead of going to Jackson and getting arrested, she worked behind the lines. New Orleans was an important staging city for the campaign, a way-point for Riders coming from the west coast and elsewhere. Smith-Simmons and her CORE colleagues housed and fed the Riders on their arrival, trained them in nonviolence, then put them on trains and buses into Jackson.
When the federal government announced on September 22 that it would finally enforce the law, abolishing segregation in southern bus and train stations, it appeared that Smith-Simmons had lost her chance. But Mississippi provided nothing if not opportunities for Civil Rights activists. Many cities continued to segregate their stations, so New Orleans CORE began sending Riders back into Mississippi.
On November 29, 1961, Smith-Simmons and four others road a Greyhound bus to from New Orleans to McComb, Mississippi. On arrival they were denied entrance to the station’s waiting room due to a supposed gas leak. They returned a bit later and successfully integrated it, at which point they were attacked by a gang of whites and driven from the station. Claude Sitton, the New York Times reporter who had covered the Rides all summer, described the scene as a repeat “on a smaller scale [of] the riots that greeted Freedom Riders last May in Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.”
The Riders managed to escape without any help from the McComb police, who were nowhere to be found, or the FBI observers on hand, as always, to observe and nothing more. But if they were paying attention that day, they did get to see Dodie Smith-Simmons become a Freedom Rider.
Above, Dodie Smith-Simmons photographed outside the old bus station in McComb on April 16, 2012.
If Virginia does mandate vaginal ultrasounds be performed on women who want abortions, it will join the ranks of seven other states that currently impose the procedure. Surprise, surprise, five of them are southern — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas — and the other two are southern wannabes — Arizona and Kansas.
But then of course the South does have a history of gouging the vaginas of women who break the rules. Freedom Rider Joan Mullholland (above) remembers her arrival at Parchman prison in the Mississippi delta one evening in the summer of 1961:
It was night, I think, when we got to Parchman — getting processed and a change of clothes and vaginal searches. The matrons would dip their — as I recollect, it was gloved hands, but somebody else may remember it differently — they would dip ‘em into these buckets of whatever between gouging us up. It smelled like Lysol or Pine-Sol, one of those highly disinfectant things. It was all frightening. I think it was meant to impress the seriousness of our isolation and that they could do anything they wanted to.
Joan Mulholland kept a diary of her time in the Jackson city jail. The jailed riders wore their own clothes in Jackson, and Mulholland was able to hide a pencil and several sheets of crumpled paper in the hem of her skirt. When she was transferred to Parchman, she had to wear prison-issue clothing, but on her release, when her clothes were returned to her, she found the diary safe and sound, still hidden in the hem of her garment.
Below is a scan and the transcript of the entry for June 10, 1961. Mulholland had been arrested two days before.
Washed my hair. Dinner spaghetti with two little chunks of hot dogs & cornbread. Ugh! Ruth can’t take it and has been trying to call the lawyer. Lovely little article in yesterday’s paper about me. Wrote Paul but got it back. He’s bailed out and so has Frank.
This evening we sang a lot. Most girls did folk dancing, but since I’d just washed I didn’t want to get all sweaty. After dinner most of us changed to shorties. I think all the girls in here are gems but I feel more in common with the Negro girls & wish I was locked in with them instead of these atheist Yankees.
The jailer brought by two girls to look at us, including one he brought by last night. The boys have devotions twice a day. Sigh! When I grease up Emmy comes over to have some on her lips. Got paper tonight. Wrote Cecil – smuggled.
Almost as soon as the lights went out the singing started. The boys would sing some, and we’d sing some. A man named Charles (non-rider) has a beautiful voice and sang several solos. Someone further away sang “How Great Thou Art” for Betty. Some white guy kept cursing us out. One guy answered back a little and everyone sang louder. We quit around 11. It was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve ever had.