LAGRANGE, GA (WTVM) - It was a history lesson like no other.
One of the original Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement shared his experience Thursday, Jan. 22 at LaGrange College as part of their celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Standing at the podium at LaGrange College, Hank Thomas recalled the struggles of the 1960 Civil Rights Movement and the role he played as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders.
The Freedom Riders were organized to test federal laws banning segregation. By the time Thomas' bus reached Anniston, Ala., it was firebombed by the KKK.
"By the grace of God the fire ignited the fuel tank in the rear of the bus and it blew out the rear of the bus and everybody ran including the men who were holding the door shut and that's the only way we got out," Thomas said.
It's these lessons about race, equality, freedom and sacrifice that caught the attention of LaGrange College senior Jalen Butler.
"Our generation sometimes takes things for granted you know," Butler said. "We complain about a lot of things but listening to the stuff he went through we really don't have any gripes."
Made possible by one of this country's civil rights foot soldiers--who has seen firsthand the changes in our racial landscape.
"Here to remind people what kind of wonderful changes have occurred in the country and in order to fully appreciate that you've got to put things in a historical context... show what it was like then and of course contrast it to where we are today," Thomas said.
Three of the 13 original Freedom Riders are still alive, including Thomas, Congressman John Lewis and Charles Person.
about the Freedom Riders and what Hank Thomas does these days.