Freedom Rider To Speak At Ohio University Lancaster

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A man who is called one of the pillars of the Civil Rights Movement is coming to speak at Ohio University Lancaster Wednesday to mark Black History Month.

Reverend Bernard LaFayette co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and was part of the Freedom Rides in 1961.

"It's our featured presentation, our way to celebrate black history month on the Lancaster campus," says O.U.L. Director of Development Mandi Custer.   

Freedom riders took interstate buses into the segregated south and tested U.S. Supreme Court decisions which outlawed racial segregation.

LaFayette was later appointed by Martin Luther King Junior as the National Program Administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Coordinator of the 1968 Poor People's Campaign.

"It's a rare opportunity, I would say in central Ohio, especially Lancaster, to hear from a man who was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s," says Custer. "From there, he just went on to be a nationally known advocate for, not only african-americans, but just racial justice in general within this country."

The talk is called "Freedom Riders: Riding for Racial Justice" and will be held Wednesday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m. in O.U. Lancaster's Wagner Theatre.

Custer says there is a great deal students and community members could learn by coming to see LaFayette speak.

"I don't think I understand the fight that Dr. LaFayette had to go through. Never once have I been denied a seat at a restaurant. Never once have I been denied a seat on a bus," says Custer. "I have no idea what that would be like. So, just to get to hear from him and to applaud him for everything he's done for civil rights in this country is going to be an amazing opportunity."

The event is free and doors open at 6 p.m.

Custer says the room can seat about 500 people.

The event is being funded by the O.U. Lancaster Diversity Committee, the O.U. Lancaster Cultural Events Committee and the Fairfield County Foundation.

WOUB is airing a documentary on the freedom rides, called "Freedom Riders: American Experience" the day before LaFayette speaks at O.U. Lancaster.

The show will air on WOUB-TV on Tuesday, February 7 at 8 p.m.