Joseph PerkinsFreedom Rider Owensboro, KY
Twenty-seven year-old Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Field Secretary Joe Perkins hailed from Owensboro, KY. The oldest of six children, he spent four years at Kentucky State University in Frankfort before enlisting for two years in the army in 1954. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he demonstrated on behalf of the Southern sit-in movement to end lunch counter segregation. Recruited by CORE in August 1960, he gained a reputation as a bold and skillful organizer.
Perkins was the first member of the original 1961 CORE Freedom Ride to be arrested, for requesting a shoeshine from a whites-only shoeshine chair during an impromptu "shoe-in" in Charlotte, NC on May 9. After two days in a Charlotte jail, he rejoined the group and served as leader of the Greyhound Riders on May 14, when their bus was burned in Anniston, AL.