Joan Trumpauer Mulholland (born 1941) was a Freedom Rider from Arlington, Virginia.
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland was a woman raised in the Deep South in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. Her great-grandparents were slave owners in Georgia, and then after the War, they became sharecroppers. Her mother was the very first in her family to marry a foreigner; he was a “Yankee.” Her family wasn’t wealthy by any means, but could afford “black help.” Joan’s mother became very ill after she was born, so a black woman raised Joan for the first 3 months of her life. Her parents hated blacks, and were very forward about their support for segregation. She said she grew up with her mom saying, “no matter how bad things were, at least ya aren’t black.” Joan grew up in a segregationist world. She knew nothing except the fact that, her family loved the black help that they had, but they hated the black race. Joan was raised in the church, being taught every Sunday the love of Jesus. She states in her documentary, that she remembers singing the song “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world,” but then going home and hating the blacks around her. It made no sense to her. Her life forever changed when she and her friend Mary (no last name given), dared each other to walk into “nigger” country. The black community was located on the other sides of the train tracks. When the girls crossed over, Joan states her eyes were opened. “No one said anything to me, but the way they shrunk back and became invisible, showed me that they believed that they weren’t as good as me.” Although she loved being a southerner, she hated what it meant. She vowed to herself that if she could do anything to help be a part of the movement, and change the world; she would. Her desire for activism created a tension and divide between her and her mother. When it became time for her to apply to colleges, she did not get what she wanted. She had planned on going to a school in Ohio or Kentucky but her parents wouldn’t allow it, for fear that the schools may be integrated. Knowing she wasn’t going to win that battle with her parents, she applied and was accepted to Duke. Once she went to Duke, her opportunity to make a difference arose. In February 1961, she participated in her first of many sit ins. She was branded as mentally ill, and was taken in for testing after her first arrest. The movement became her home, because she was never to return to her family again.
An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Mulholland