History repeats itself….
Back then it was Black’s sent North….
Now it’s Brown’s being sent North….
When two planeloads of asylum seekers were flown to Martha’s Vineyard last month, Peola Denham Jr. recognized an echo of his own experience from six decades ago — one nearly forgotten in the long history of Black Americans’ struggle for civil rights.
“What really took me back,” recalled Mr. Denham, 73, “is that when the people got to their destinations, they didn’t get what they were promised.”
For Mr. Denham, in the spring of 1962, the promise came in the form of bus and train tickets offered to his family and other Black Southerners by members of the White Citizens’ Council, a segregationist group, to take them to Northern and Western states where many were promised jobs and housing.
Clive Webb, a professor of American history at the University of Sussex, said the reverse freedom rides — concocted in response to the Freedom Rides organized by civil rights groups to challenge segregation on interstate buses — attracted plenty of media attention at the time, but have since been largely overlooked. In a 2004 paper on the subject, he estimated that more than 200 Black Southerners took the free tickets.
But the Martha’s Vineyard flights, along with the busing of Central American migrants to the vice president’s residence in Washington last month, dredged the reverse freedom rides back into public consciousness. A letter signed by some House Democrats accused the Republican governors who arranged the trips of “using the same ploys” as the segregationists of 1962, while the Biden administration accused them of using the migrants as political pawns.
“No historical parallel is ever precise,” Dr. Webb said of the comparisons between the migrant trips and the reverse freedom rides. “But it was a cheap publicity stunt in the early ’60s, and this is a publicity stunt, too.”
The migrants taken to Martha’s Vineyard on flights arranged by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida had recently crossed the southwestern U.S. border without authorization and turned themselves in to border officials to seek asylum, with many saying they had fled violence at home. The migrants who were dropped at Vice President Kamala Harris’s home the same week, on buses sent from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott, were from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua and Panama and came into the country in the same manner.