Former San Jose State student Michael Powell, now a 70-year-old retiree living in Boulder Creek, was recently honored by none other than Oprah Winfrey for the courage he showed in his youth.
As a student at SJSU in the early 60s, Powell was inspired by a talk given by James Farmer on the racial inequalities of the South, the Mercury News reports. He then joined the Freedom Riders, a group of about 400 people who over the summer of 1961 protest segregation laws throughout the South and were often arrested for “trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating Jim Crow laws.”
Powell, the Merc reports, said he was arrested for “endangering the peace and sentenced to four months in jail and a $200 fine” and spent about six weeks in jail.
Powell is one of almost 180 surviving members of the group who attended a taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” episode, which is titled “Oprah Honors American Heroes: The Freedom Riders Reunite 50 Years Later.”