Where are the personal apologies for the Freedom Riders?
Sep 08, 2011
There has been only a single personal apology for the events that happened 50 years ago. Elwin Wilson, a former member of the KKK, drew the first blood of the Freedom Ride when he attacked John Lewis as he stepped into the bus station in Rock Hill, S.C. He traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2009 to find John Lewis -- now Congressman Lewis -- and to tell him he was sorry.
Congressman Lewis described the meeting to Oprah like this: "He said, 'I attacked you, and I'm sorry. I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology?' And I said, 'Yes.' And he gave me a hug, and he started crying. I hugged him back, and I shed some tears also."
"He's the first and only person who has ever apologized to me."
Wilson does not say why he waited almost 50 years, but when he finally had the courage to say he was sorry, he was able to do so face to face because the man he needed to apologize to is a Congressman, with a public address in Washington, D.C. How many of the sheriffs' deputies and prison guards, or the men and women who had been part of the Montgomery and Anniston mobs, would do the same thing if they had a forum for doing so?
Maybe none, but maybe some.