/Brenda Travis took a stand and was ordered to leave state at 17 or forfeit her freedom

Brenda Travis took a stand and was ordered to leave state at 17 or forfeit her freedom

Randall O’Brien was in the audience on that day in 2006. He was also a McComb student when Travis, then 16, stood up for all Mississippians in 1962. O’Brien, a Vietnam veteran, traveled from Texas to present the Bronze Star to his hero. “Some people are asked if they will fight for their country. O’Brien stated that no one should ever be forced to defend her country. Many people are overlooked heroes in the civil rights movement – parents who registered to vote, risking their lives and livelihoods, and parents who helped their children walk through doors that were opened. Travis was one of these unsung heroes. Travis’ Mississippi’s Exiled Daughter describes how her anger at the treatment of African Americans in Mississippi, her hometown, and her family led her to become a civil rights activist as a teenager. She also describes how those two days changed her life. Travis was raised in a home with six siblings, her grandmother, aunt, and cousins. After “offending” a white male, her father fled the state and was forced to leave before Travis was born. They lived in poverty, had no running water, but were happy. In 1955, Emmett Till’s death and her brother being detained by police in the middle of the night for questioning triggered an outrage that would inspire her to become a youth civil right leader. Travis was 16 years old and working with a voter registration drive in the summer 1961 when McComb called for “direct action”. Travis offered to integrate the Greyhound bus station in her town. She and two other activists were later arrested. She would be expelled from school 28 days after she was released from jail. When Travis was expelled, Travis’ fellow students marched out of school with Brenda Travis at their front to the city hall. Travis was arrested again, but she was sent to reform school. On Easter Sunday, Travis was again arrested. Ross Barnett had told her that she could leave Mississippi, but she needed to leave and never return – because she tried to integrate a bus stop and then attempted to pray at the city hall. Travis was 17 years old when she began a journey of fear and distrust. It would take her from Mississippi, Georgia, Illinois and Connecticut to California where she eventually found her home. She was almost disinvited, but finally welcomed to an event honoring the students who left high school on that fateful day in 1961. Travis encouraged others to keep fighting in her speech. She was subsequently approached by a white male who told her how proud he was about the 16-year-old in 1961 and the impact she had made on his life. “Brenda,” O’Brien began. … “I am a minister, executive vice president and provost at Baylor University. McComb was where I was raised. I consider you a hero. You were twelve years old when I sat in the bus station and marched to city hall. You were sixteen years old. John Obee co-authored Mississippi’s Exiled Daughter. How my Civil Rights Baptism under Fire Shaped My Lives. Brenda Travis will be appearing on the Mississippi Civil Rights History panel in the C-SPAN Room Old Supreme Court Room at 12:00 p.m. The panel will also include Pam Junior, Eric Etheridge and Jane Hearn. Stephanie Rolph is another participant.