By LeRoy Ford
When we think about the civil rights movement everyone thinks of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks. But what about those who came before them and gave them the courage to stand up for civil rights? What about the young men and women that fought just as hard, if not harder, for us to have the freedoms we have today? What about the unsung heroes?
I found myself to be ashamed when we pulled into the town of Farmville, Virginia on Day 2 of the Student Freedom Ride. I was ashamed because I had no idea that I was pulling up to such an important part of history. It was a part of history that has directly impacted my life, yet I knew nothing about it. A young 16-year-old high school student changed history forever. This student, Barbara Johns, had more courage, bravery, and dedication than I could have ever had when I was 16. That she recognized that she and her classmates were being treated unfairly and stood up and did something about it speaks a lot.
She rallied her classmates to strike against the inequality of the black schools and the white schools. Just to think about how the schools decided to shut down for five years instead of integrate breaks my heart. But the dedication of Barbara Johns and her classmates changed history forever. This is one way the unsung heroes have changed the lives of you and me.
Now I can proudly say that I am no longer ashamed of the fact of not knowing, because now I know. I know that it took more than just the people we constantly hear about in history text and classes. It’s not just about the ones who have holidays in honor of their service. It’s more than just them. It’s about everyone who had the courage and dedication to stand up for what they believed in. These unsung heroes who paved the way for you and me deserve as much credit as those constantly in the spotlight. But I now understand that they didn’t do it for attention, fame, or praise; they did it because they wanted change and had the bravery to do so. I will forever be grateful for the unsung heroes!