His family was rich in love, wealthy at mealtimes, affluent
when it came to lessons, they had an abundance of fun, but
he was in tenth grade before he realized that his extended
family lived in a tenement on the south side of
Atlanta, in Buttermilk Bottom. His father worked two
full-time jobs to make ends meet. His mother was a domestic
and, in effect, had "two families." He'd never thought about
the facts until then, and it shamed him.
Two years later, when he was about to graduate from high
school, he was enraged when he had to turn down his
preferred college because of lack of money. It seemed to be
the final insult after a lifetime of insults and he railed
against it, until his grandfather asked Person what he was
"going to do about it." Papa demanded an answer.
Person decided on an HBCU that was close to home, one he
After walking three miles from his home to Morehouse, the
first day was awkward but Person stayed. He wanted the
education, wanted to follow the words of John Kennedy, who
asked what he could do for his country. As it happened, at
this same time, the indefatigable Civil Rights leader Lonnie
King was in Atlanta, too.
When told by an Atlanta department store owner to go home
and take his fellow protesters with him, Lonnie vowed to
come back in the fall with "thousands."
And, says Person, "I was one of them."
Sometimes, it seems that in a haste to tell the story,
history glosses over a lot of details. Buses Are A Comin'
sets many omissions straight – after it tells a tale so
intimate and so filled with joy-cum-despair that it nearly
takes your breath away.
Indeed, author Charles Person tells his own story so well
that you can feel the floorboards sway in his "tenement"
home. Surprisingly, he writes about the many elders who
didn't want their children to march, seeing the danger; and
those who did, despite it. There are details here that
aren't discussed much, and other details that add to the
And then Person turns "memoir into memorial" by turning his
sights on Lonnie King, who was obviously a giant in Person's
eyes. King, he suggests, is one of the Civil Rights
Movement's most unsung heroes, but Person doesn't forget
others who marched for change – including his contemporary,
This is a book you hand to readers too young to remember the
Civil Rights Movement. It honors and it sings out names.
Read it; Buses Are A Comin' will keep you in your