Sixty years ago, he and Bayard Rustin led the first freedom ride in the South





At 91, [George M. Houser is] one of only two people alive who participated in the first freedom ride through the segregated South that preceded the famous one of 1961 by 14 years.

And at a time when religion in American politics almost invariably means the religious right, he’s a vibrant reminder that faith cuts through politics from more than one direction, with more than one message.

Mr. Houser, a Methodist minister, isn’t forgotten. He’s often cited in civil rights histories and has been featured in several PBS documentaries as a co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality and a longtime participant in efforts to end colonialism in Africa.

But to understand his most remarkable moment it’s essential to remember that before Rosa Parks there was Irene Morgan.

Mrs. Morgan, who died in August, was a black woman who worked in a plant that made World War II bombers. The mother of two small children, she was returning to Baltimore aboard a Greyhound bus in 1944 after a visit to her mother in Virginia. When told to give up her seat to a white passenger, she refused, as Mrs. Parks did 11 years later, and took her case to court.


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