Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
When U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy heard that more students were continuing the Freedom Rides, he called his assistant, John Seigenthaler. "My phone in the hotel room rings, and it's the attorney general," John says. "He opens the conversation, 'Who the hell is Diane Nash? Call her and let her know what is waiting for the Freedom Riders.'"
John called Diane to try to stop the Freedom Riders from Nashville, but Diane responded, "They're not going to turn back. They're on their way to Birmingham, and they'll be there shortly."
Fearing for their safety, John pled with Diane, but she told him the students knew of the danger that lay ahead. The night before they left Nashville, Diane told John they signed their last wills and testaments.
Diane says she chose to lead the Nashville Freedom Rides because she'd had enough. "Segregation was so humiliating," she says. "If you went downtown in Nashville during the lunch hour, blacks would be sitting on the curb eating their lunch that they had brought from home or had bought from a restaurant on a take-out basis. It was humiliating, and I hated it."
Every time Diane obeyed a segregation sign, she says she felt like she was agreeing that she was, in fact, inferior. "Too inferior to use the ordinary facility that the general public used," Diane says. "It was a real problem for me."
"Well, I'm glad it was a problem," Oprah says.