Veteran of Civil Rights movement reacts to flag change

Former Freedom Rider Reacts to historic vote on flag

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There are some who may have a more personal appreciation for the historic events in the legislature on June 27th and June 28th.

3 On Your Side has reaction and perspective from a veteran of the 1960′s civil rights movement, on the changing of Mississippi’s controversial flag.

Hezekiah Watkins was barely a teenager when he was arrested along with the Freedom Riders of the turbulent 1960's civil rights movement in Mississippi. He's 72-years-old now and he admits his emotions got the better of him with the news that Mississippi's flag is changing.

A young Hezekiah Watkins after his arrest at a Jackson bus station
A young Hezekiah Watkins after his arrest at a Jackson bus station (Source: Mississippi Civil Rights Museum)

Hezekiah Watkins said, ”First of all, I was just thrown back. I cup run over. The tears was there, but also there was a big joy along with the tears. I never thought that I would see this day happen.”

Watkins relationship with this state's flag is not one filled with fond memories.

”You have to be black to really get what was happening,” said Watkins.

He continued, ”To me, it stood for hatred, bigotry, racism and I can go on and on. My mom, as a little child, would tell me in a store, you go another direction if you see that flag in a car, someone carrying that flag, you go another direction. You don’t say anything.”

These days Watkins shares his stories of that dark time in Magnolia State history with visitors to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. And now, there’s a new chapter.

Hezekiah Watkins said, ”Well, it means we’ve taken a step; not a giant step, but we’ve taken a step and others, the perception of Mississippi will change.”

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