hank thomas Hank Thomas

Monday, January 20, 2014
Buskirk-Chumley Theater (114 E. Kirkwood Ave.)

The keynote speaker for the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration will be Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, who will speak on "A Freedom Rider's Journey."

Nineteen-year-old Hank Thomas joined the 1961 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Ride. Thomas overcame an impoverished childhood in southern Georgia and St. Augustine, FL to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) affiliated Nonviolent Action Group (NAG).

After participating in the May 4 CORE Freedom Ride, Thomas returned to the Deep South to participate in the May 24 Mississippi Freedom Ride from Montgomery, AL to Jackson, MS, and was jailed at Parchman State Prison Farm. After being released on bail, he went on to participate in the July 14 New Jersey to Arkansas CORE Freedom Ride. On August 22, 1961, Thomas became the first Freedom Rider to appeal his conviction for breach of peace. He was released on appeal, pending payment of a $2,000 bond.

Following the Freedom Rides, Thomas served in the Vietnam War, returning home after being wounded in 1966. In recent years, Thomas has owned and operated several hotel and fast food restaurant franchises in the Atlanta metro region.

Explore the PBS American Experience program website to learn more about Freedom Riders.

A look back at last year...

Carlotta LaNier 2 Carlotta Walls LaNier, featured speaker at the 2013 celebration The City of Bloomington's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration took place at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN at 7 p.m., following a reception featuring hors d'oeuvres.

The event included remarks by Mayor Kruzan, who presented the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award to the Indiana University Office of Diversity Education. MLK Commissioner Barbara Fuqua helped recognize volunteers who participated in "A Day On! Not A Day Off." Musical entertainment was provided by the Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble and the University Elementary School Martin Luther King, Jr. Choir.

The keynote speaker was Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the "Little Rock Nine" who, in 1957, were the first African American students to attend Little Rock Central High School. LaNier and the other students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, and then attended after the intervention of President Eisenhower. The event is widely considered one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement.

Major event underwriters included Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington, Otis Elevator, Stephens Honda-Hyundai and WFIU.

For more information, please contact Craig Brenner at 349-3471.