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Miller Green

Miller Green, Freedom Rider

Miller Green name and address

Bio

Born
May 19, 1943 in Bentonia, MS. Grew up in Jackson.

Arrested
July 7, 1961, at the Trailways bus station

Then
Senior, Lanier High School

Since then
Worked in the civil rights movement in Mississippi doing voter registration. Attended Utica Junior College, in nearby Utica, for a year.

Moved to Chicago in 1963. Worked in a printing plant and a prepared foods factory; active in the movement, working with Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH to improve economic opportunities in black communities.

In the mid-seventies and early eighties started and ran several businesses, including clothing stores and a hair salon. Later worked as a director of security for St. Bernard Hospital, and as a manager of a blood bank. Today he lives in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago and runs Citizens for a Better West Englewood.

References in the Sovereignty Commission Files
Oral History

On what happened in  Mississippi in 1961
What happened in Mississippi was basically the whole state was put on a bunch of young people, 17, 18 years old. The ministers ran. They went fishing. The Ph.Ds, they ran. So it came down to a bunch of teenagers who grew up in Mississippi and knew the situation, who knew what the consequences could be. Yet we carried that on our shoulders. The adults was nowhere to be found. They ran. The only somebody I know that was an adult at the time was Medgar Evers [the head of the NAACP in Mississippi]. Everybody else disappeared. Nobody was there. It was a very frustrating situation, to know that there were no adults who was willing to take that chance.

We had seen what had been done to Emmett Till. I remember when it happened. The fear escalated so that when it got dark and you was away from home and you saw car lights coming on, you ran, not knowing who would be in that car. We lived with that. And come ‘61, you asking young men to go and do something that they’d seen nobody ever do.

On being recruited to join the Freedom Rides by James Bevel
We were at El Ranchos, a place the high school kids frequented after the football games. They had a dancing floor and sold a little beer and food; that was the place to hang out. We were sitting in the booth, talking about who knew. Here comes a man in overalls, which was very unusual. You expected to see a person like that out in the country, at juke joint. So he politely just made himself comfortable in the booth, and he proceeded to introduce himself. He said his name was James Bevel.

He told us what he and his colleagues were trying to do. At that moment it was like a spirit came over us. We had never seen the man before, and it reminded me of Jesus, when Jesus was walking the earth and how the disciples just picked up and left and didn’t tell nobody. That happened to us.

He was not even driving, and this particular night nobody in the group had a car. We thumbed a ride back where the office was.

When we get there, Tom Gaither, who was a young lawyer, he was the field secretary was there. Also Reverend Bevel’s wife, Diane Nash, who had just got out of jail that evening. They started to explain what had been going on, what the plan was.

That’s when they had asked us to do this task. Several of my friends said, let’s wait until tomorrow, we’re not clean enough. Well, I knew that that was fear, because we was always clean. I was wearing suits and ties when I was 14, 15 years old, Stacy Adams high tops. That was basically the attire for my group at the time. So I knew that was fear.

I said, well, if I don’t go tonight, I’m not going, and immediately Rev. Bevel and Diane Nash felt that they had a person in the group who was willing. So they proceeded to continue to talk about what they had been trying to do and what the situation was. And I’m looking at Diane Nash, and at the time Diane Nash was a beautiful girl, and I said to myself, this young lady here just got out of jail and she’s beautiful. I said to myself, if she can take a chance, then no reason why I can’t go.

So once everybody was in agreement, we were given probably $50, $60 to take a bus to New Orleans. We were told that someone would be there to meet us providing we was able to purchase a ticket through the white interests. After everyone agreed, they dropped us off in front of the Trailway Bus Station. Mind you, I had never seen an African American in there at all. I don’t ever remember seeing a black cab driver there. So now, you are in the process of going into a place that you grew up in seeing non-blacks in, and you know what the situation is, you know what the rule of law is in the state of Mississippi. I remember getting out just as clear as day, getting out, and I was in front. As I approached the door – and this is so real – there was like a voice that said, “Nigger, you know you ain’t go no business going up in here.” And there was another voice right after that that said, “Miller, if you even flinch, they going to run off and leave you, so don’t even look back, just keep straight.”

After we were arrested us, the police found out we was from Jackson and immediately they told us, you all are from Jackson, we love you all, we know it was that Dr. King that persuaded you all to do this. Get on the phones, call your parents, tell them to come down here and pick you up, everything is all right.

So I told the police I was dissatisfied with the way things were, and I said I will be here to the jails rot. We walked around our cells all night. No one was there watching us. They let us have our way. I guess the next morning, probably about 6:30, they recognized that we wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s when they started fingerprinting us.

Miller Green, Freedom Rider