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Publisher's Summary

"Narrator Landon Woodson does a masterful job delivering Person's audiobook - which is both Person's own coming-of-age story and the story of a nation trying to reckon with racism.... This important audiobook is shared exquisitely by Woodson." (AudioFile Magazine)

A firsthand exploration of the cost of boarding the bus of change to move America forward - written by one of the Civil Rights Movement's pioneers.

At 18, Charles Person was the youngest of the original Freedom Riders, key figures in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement who left Washington, D.C. by bus in 1961, headed for New Orleans. This purposeful mix of black and white, male and female activists - including future Congressman John Lewis, Congress of Racial Equality Director James Farmer, Reverend Benjamin Elton Cox, journalist and pacifist James Peck, and CORE field secretary Genevieve Hughes - set out to discover whether America would abide by a Supreme Court decision that ruled segregation unconstitutional in bus depots, waiting areas, restaurants, and restrooms nationwide.

Two buses proceeded through Virginia, North and South Carolina, to Georgia where they were greeted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and finally to Alabama. There, the Freedom Riders found their answer: No. Southern states would continue to disregard federal law and use violence to enforce racial segregation. One bus was burned to a shell, its riders narrowly escaping; the second, which Charles rode, was set upon by a mob that beat several riders nearly to death.

Buses Are a Comin’ provides a front-row view of the struggle to belong in America, as Charles Person accompanies his colleagues off the bus, into the station, into the mob, and into history to help defeat segregation’s violent grip on African American lives. It is also a challenge from a teenager of a previous era to the young people of today: become agents of transformation. Stand firm. Create a more just and moral country where students have a voice, youth can make a difference, and everyone belongs.

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press

"Shot through with vivid details of beatdowns, arrests, and awe-inspiring bravery, this inspirational account captures the magnitude of what the early civil rights movement was up against.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"A vital story, this memoir is also an instructive gift to future generations fighting for change.” (Kirkus, starred review)

©2021 Charles Person and Richard Rooker (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

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Great story

I really enjoyed listening to his story. I learned exactly what freedom riders faced and was truly amazed by the courage and fortitude they possessed.

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A movement of history determines its future. WMID?

What am I going to do? This question resonates. I'm blown away to read the passages, that seem like a sad rite of passage; yet the pain of the past is mirrored in nuances of today. Thd book is an invite to own a Rite of Passage but to endure there will always be a sacrifice. Thank you to each and every Jim Peck and Charles Person ❤ I'm grateful that your sacrifices in 'Buses are Comin" means there is a way home chosen route or not. I cried in my soul reading but definitely needed.

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Shockingly insightful story of America

Every American, every good person who seeks a better tomorrow, every proponent of equality, justice and peace should read / listen to this landmark book. America will be a better place one day. The buses are a comin’, oh yeah.

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Memoir of one of the two remaining Freedom Riders

Two things can be true at one time. The era of overt legal segregation was not that long ago (my mother is two weeks younger than Ruby Bridges, and many school districts around the country did not desegregate until roughly about the time of my birth). And we are very rapidly losing those that played prominent roles in the Civil Rights Era. Charles Person is one of just two members of the original Freedom Riders that are still living. Buses are Coming': Memoir of a Freedom Riders was published just a couple of months ago. It is yet another book that I would not have known about without a recommendation from a friend. A friend of mine was invited to go to Charles Person's home a couple of weeks ago, and there he spent four hours talking with him and learning about his story. It was out of that meeting that I heard about Buses are Comin'. 

Charles Person was born in 1942. He was the youngest of the original Freedom Riders. As a Morehouse freshman, he participated in the Atlanta Student Movement that organized the end of segregated restaurants and shopping in Atlanta. During those protests, Charles Person was arrested and spent 16 days in jail for "trespassing and disturbing the peace" while standing in line at a lunch buffet attempting to pay for a meal. As retaliation for singing freedom songs while in jail, he was moved to solitary confinement for ten of those days. In part because of the jail sentence, he fell behind with his spring classes during his freshman year; he dropped out of Morehouse that spring and applied to be part of the Congress on Racial Equality's Freedom Ride. (Person had applied to MIT and Georgia Tech, was accepted into MIT, but could not afford to attend and was rejected because of his race from Georgia Tech during the final year of required segregation at Tech.)

Roughly half of the book is about Person's early years before college and the protests at the Atlanta Student Movement. The second half of the book is a much more detailed look at the initial Freedom Ride. That first Freedom Ride brought attention to the illegal segregated interstate travel, but it did not succeed. One of the buses was burned, and virtually all of the Freedom Riders were severely beaten. Eventually, with a representative of President Kennedy and the work of Birmingham pastor Fred Shuttlesworth, the Freedom Riders were flown out of Birmingham.

In response to the failure of the first ride, Diane Nash of SNCC organized a follow-up Freedom Rides. It took more than seven months. More than 400 riders participated in 60 rides before the federal government agreed to enforce the 1946 Morgan v. Virginia and the 1960 Boynton v. Virginal Supreme Court rulings that desegregated interstate travel. The Buses are Comin' is just about the first Freedom Ride. In an afterward, Charles Person speaks of the follow-up work, but he did not participate in those follow-up rides because of his parents' resistance. 

The more I read about the Civil Rights Era, the more it is clear that the real work of the Civil Rights Era was small-scale organizing by people that will never be well known. Of course, it is vital to learn about Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Stokley Carmichael, and John Lewis, but the unknown people allowed their work to be successful. 

These Buses are Comin' reminds me of a similar memoir by Carolyn Maull McKinstry. While the World Watched tells McKinstry's story of narrowly missing being killed by the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and her participation in the Birmingham Children's crusade. Unlike most Civil Rights Era memoirs, which are usually framed as harrowing hero stories, most of While the World Watched is about her recovery from the trauma of losing four of her best friends, participating in a march, and being arrested a child, and the resulting alcoholism. The hard parts of the movement were made clear. That is also true, but there is more of a hero story framing with I Will Not Fear by Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the Little Rock Nine. 

Melba Pattillo Beals, Carolyn Maull McKinstry, and Charles Person are still living. They range in age from 72 to 79. All of them were part of the student movement of the Civil Rights era, and while they participated in those initial marches and protests, the rest of their lives were still impacted by ongoing racism. Beals, in her memoir, speaks about the difficulty of finding housing even 20 years after discrimination based on race in housing was made illegal. Not in the book, but based on my friend's discussion with Charles Person, he went into the military. He was trained as an engineer there because of continued education and job discrimination. McKinstry speaks about her brother, who stopped speaking for years after the string of church and home bombings in their area and who died before he turned 50, in large part because of the trauma of his early life. 

I regularly encounter white adults resistant to the idea that there is ongoing racial discrimination or that there is a continued impact from historical discrimination. It is books like these I wish people would read. I think it is a story and memoir that has the best chance of changing minds and opening up people beyond their personal experience and ideological blinders.

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Great story we can all learn life lessons from

Superb narration of an important national event from Charles Person who's experience is important to all Americans.