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Thomas Armstrong

Building Love Amongst Cultures along with Lombard Historical Society hosted a special virtual program to honor Black History: Thomas Armstrong, a 1961 Freedom Rider, shared his experiences as a young college student engaged in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi from 1959 to 1963. This virtual program is at 7pm on Thursday, March 10, 2022. 

This virtual program was FREE but registration is required to receive the Zoom link. For more information about future events, email or LHS at

As a student at Tougaloo College, Thomas Madison Armstrong III, joined a small group of colleagues and faculty members who launched early protests for voting rights and equal public accommodations. These were demonstrations led by leaders, such as John Mangram, Edwin King, and the late Medgar Evers, and peopled by students, ordinary men and women of the South, both black and white. He also participated in many sit-ins, marches, and voter registration drives. He was one of the first three Freedom Riders that lived in the state of Mississippi. 

Since he began responding to invitations to talk about his experience in recent years, he has conducted intergenerational discussions about the personal power of civic education, and has worked to further the nation's democratic ideals at such places as the Freedom Riders Teen Town hall Webcast at the National Underground Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH, sponsored by the National Museum of American History, and the African American Leadership Roundtable in Chicago, Illinois.

Mr. Armstrong has co-authored, with Nashville, TN based journalist, Natalie Bell, a memoir about his life-altering, freedom-fighting experience. The book, titled Autobiography of a Freedom Rider, is part memoir and part historical narrative. The book underscores the importance of historical narratives of black Southerners who led and participated in the Civil Rights Movement. 

In the introduction to his book, Armstrong writes: "Hardly anyone today, it seems, realizes the terror that existed among black Southerners during most of the last century...Fannie Lou Hamer once described precisely what it was like: 'There's so much hate. Only God has kept the Negro sane.' It took tremendous courage for us to stand up to the violence of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens' Council; and yet, as responsible citizens, we would not be deterred from striving for justice, truly one of the noblest goals any of us can strive for."

Mr. Armstrong discussed his experiences as a Freedom Rider and answered questions from the audience. 


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