The recent celebration of the anniversary of the Freedom Riders coming through Villa Rica in May 1961 again reminded Hanson of a similar injustice she saw on a bus running between Villa Rica and Carrollton many years ago.
Hanson, whose family had recently moved from Villa Rica to Carrollton, still returned on the bus once every two weeks to work in the local hosiery mill. On one particular day she was returning to Carrollton from work while sitting on the front seat behind the driver when she noticed a black boy she guessed was between 9 and 11 years old sitting by himself on the front seat across the aisle from her.
Having grown up with black children, she didn’t think much of it. In fact, she and her family had many neighbors living around them who were black.
“My family was pretty poor,” she said. “We had blacks in our neighborhood who had more than we had, so we had nothing to be prejudice about.”
The boy didn’t say a word and kept to himself until his stop in the Sand Hill community. Though the driver didn’t say anything to the boy during the ride, as he exited the bus Hanson recalled the driver telling him that next time he rode the bus he needed to go to the back like he was supposed to do.
“He was on the bus when I got on and had just sat there well-mannered and minding his own business,” Hanson said. “I have thought about it so many times over the years. His heart must have been broken and I’m sure he hated that driver for saying that to him.”
Though Hanson has never seen the boy since that incident, she’s thought about him many times since and the hurt he must have felt. “He probably doesn’t live around her any more, but I’ve thought many times that I’d like to meet him and tell him that what the driver said broke my heart too,” she said.
The 1961 Freedom Ride was meant to shed light on civil rights injustices being experienced at the time all over the United States, but especially in the southern United States. Mainly young black college students boarded buses that traveled throughout the southeast to protest the treatment of blacks and the inequality they faced in such areas as public transportation, where they were traditionally relegated to the back of the bus to keep from intermingling with the white passengers.