OGDEN -- Joan Trumpauer Mulholland was just a slip of a girl, raised in strict Southern tradition, when she forfeited her privileges for a chance to change the world.
Mulholland, one of the 1961 Freedom Riders who joined with black students in the fight to end segregation, shares her story Friday morning at Weber State University. The public is welcome to attend.
"By the time I was 10, I could see with my own eyes the inequities between whites and blacks," said Mulholland, 52 years after her first protest arrest.
"We had some clandestine meetings at our church with black students when I was 16 or 17. The schools were getting close to being under court order to integrate, and the state was in massive resistance. The black students invited us to join a sit-in, for passive protest against segregation, and a handful of us did."
Mulholland, an Arlington, Va., native and resident, recalled her first protest arrest, shared with her college roommate. Both were freshmen at North Carolina's Duke University. Returning from jail after their sit-in arrest, the 18-year-olds were ordered to report to school officials.
"They took us to task, and tried to get us to promise not to do anything like that again," Mulholland recalled. "Ultimately, they thought we were mentally disturbed."
Mulholland left Duke after one semester, and later enrolled at the Tougaloo College, a black institution in Mississippi, in a private anti-segregation effort. She was accepted because the college's 1869 charter pre-dated segregation laws.
Before age 23, Mulholland participated in more than 50 protests. She met some of the biggest names in the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy and John Lewis.
Mulholland's views and behavior ended her relationship with her mother, who supported segregation.
"She was a complete product of her environment," Mulholland said. "Segregation was the way of life she grew up with. The church taught that segregation was the way of God. Slavery was justified, because they thought black people were not human in the sense of having souls capable of redemption."
For Mulholland, those views were at odds with the Christian teachings to "love thy neighbor."
"When I had a chance to help make the South good for all people, I took it," she said.
Mulholland is in Utah visiting son Loki, a Lehi filmmaker whose most recent project is "An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland." Mother and son will speak at Friday's Weber State event, and will show documentary clips and take questions. Two 50-minute sessions are scheduled, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. in the Shepherd Union Building's Wildcat Theater. Weber State is at 3848 Harrison Blvd.
Robert Luckett, of Jackson (Miss.) State University's Margaret Walker Center, an archive for documents related to African American history, was quoted in the film.
"She wasn't the outside agitator," Luckett said, in the trailer. "She was a white Southerner woman, so for that purpose, she was even more dangerous to the white supremacist power structure. Here's this white Southern woman who's supposed to be protected by the system, saying, 'I don't need this protection and I don't believe in the system.' So that made her incredibly dangerous."
Mulholland was the first white person to join one of the 1960s Woolworth's counter demonstrations. Three black students had taken places at the segregated dining counter, asking to be served. When the male student was dragged away and beaten, Mulholland took his place with the remaining female students.
"At this, the crowd is just incensed," said Michael O'Brien, author of "We Shall Not Be Moved," in the documentary film trailer. "They become like hornets. They start screaming at her."
A 1960 Supreme Court decision ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional, but Southern states ignored the ruling. An integrated group of Freedom Riders in 1961 boarded a bus bound for New Orleans, but the bus was burned and many of the passengers beaten by those who supported segregation. Mulholland, then in the Washington, D.C., area volunteered as a replacement Freedom Rider.
"We got arrested," she recalled. "The Kennedys had worked out a deal so there would not be violence. We could be arrested on local charges, not segregation law. We were arrested for 'breach of peace' because we were making them feel like beating us."
Mulholland laughed at the thought.
Local officials moved the protesters to the Mississippi State Penitentiary and relocated condemned prisoners so they could house the Freedom Riders on death row.
"The intimidation value was pretty strong," Mulholland said. "It was completely isolated, and the worst prison in the country."
Mulholland stayed as long as possible, 200 days, to serve her time and to slowly work off her fees. Her goal was to be as large an inconvenience as possible, she said, and to fully make her point.
Mulholland was attacked physically and verbally, and was threatened by Ku Klux Klan leaders,
As some anti-segregation progress was made, and active protests began to wind down, Mulholland worked as a teacher in Virginia. She raised a family, but never stopped using her voice to support causes.
"There are lots of issues that are still unresolved, from Trayvon Martin to immigrants," she said, speaking of racial inequality. "There are kids who grew up here, brought from other countries by their parents. Now what happens to them? There are gender issues and gay rights. There are refugees around the world. People need to do what they can and take to the streets if appropriate. The battle for peace and justice isn't won. Find what you are passionate about and go for it."
Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @S_ENancyVanV.