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The Blue & Gray Press | July 20, 2019

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Freedom Rider shares story at UMW


Joan Trumpauer Mulholland shared her story through her documentary “An Ordinary Hero,” and a discussion with the University of Mary Washington.

Kevin Lopez, senior and recipient of the University’s Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership presented Mulholland as the Freedom Rider speaker on Feb. 3.

Mulholland’s life story is the subject of “An Ordinary Hero,” a documentary that focuses on Mulholland’s role in the civil rights movement.

Mulholland participated in some of the civil rights’ movements most gruesome scenes, including the Jackson, Miss. Woolworth sit-in in 1963. The Mississippi sit-in caused a mob reaction, where Mulholland and her fellow protestors were accosted and humiliated.

Mulholland was not supposed to be a part of the demonstration that day, she was only meant to be a spotter. However, when a mob began to form around two female black protesters and their male companion was taken away in handcuffs, Mulholland stepped in and sat at the store’s counter with her friends.

She was the first white person to partake on the integrationist side of this event. In the famous photos of Woolworth that were released later, Mulholland is sitting in the center of the frame.

During the documentary, Mulholland reflected on her time in the movement and the friends she made. According to Mulholland, one of her favorite activities was buying carousel tickets for her African American friends.

“There’s a back of the line, and a back of the bus, but there’s no back of a carousel,” said Mulholland’s son, Loki Mulholland in the documentary, quoting one of his mother’s favorite phrases.

Mulholland asked everyone to consider that the movement she had been a part of had all started due to four boys in North Carolina who were whining about not being able to buy a Coke. One act sparked a revolution that would end in voting rights, which would then lead to the election of a mixed race president.