Ashburn, VA (Feb. 29, 2016) – Hundreds packed the auditorium of Rock Ridge High School Saturday afternoon to hear and see a woman described in the history books as “an ordinary hero.”
Civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland’s police mug shot from the summer of 1961 is one of the most famous in U.S. history. She told those gathered for the “Through Our Eyes: An Ordinary Hero” event what led to that arrest and several others.
Mulholland, a great-granddaughter of Georgia slave owners, grew up conflicted. “Segregation and racism were a way of life,” she said. And her family believed that, “no matter how bad things might be, at least you weren’t black.”
While growing up in Arlington, she remembers trying to reconcile what was taught at church with how her family, friends and neighbors lived.
“I didn’t understand. … In Sunday school, we’d sing, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world—red and yellow, black and white,’” she said. “I guess I’ve always taken things somewhat literally. But sometimes I think it’s been to my advantage, to see things clearly.”
Mulholland joined the civil rights movement as a Freedom Rider at 19 years old, when she was a freshman at Duke University. Freedom Riders were activists who rode buses into Southern cities to challenge racial segregation.
Danielle Nadler/Loudoun Now