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Locals pay final tribute to Civil Rights trailblazer

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Durrette Ofosu views a framed article of her mother Pauline Knight, a freedom rider during the Civil Rights Movement.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Durrette Ofosu views a framed article of her mother Pauline Knight, a freedom rider during the Civil Rights Movement.

REX — The garden in back of the Rex home is blooming, though the hands that took care to fertilize and prune its plants are gone. Hope springs eternal there as it always has.

Pauline Knight was a manifestation of that hope as she spent her life striving for equality. She exemplified perseverance through her sacrifices as a 20-year-old Freedom Rider during the Civl Rights Movement. She died this week at 72 years old.

Friends and family will honor her memory from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday at the Democratic Party of Georgia Headquarters, 763 Trabert Ave. N.W. in Atlanta.

Her neighbor Tracey Davis, 56, plans to attend.

“Ms. Pauline was a gentle spirit,” said Davis. “She was a person who had a desire to make a positive difference in this world, not just to the African-American race but the human race. I learned a lot from her — her grace. She was just an awesome person.”

Davis had known Knight since 2002.

“We became very close,” she said. “Ms. Pauline and I talked practically every day. I know she loved gardening, and she loved bird houses. I don’t remember her ever saying why but she kept a meticulous yard and a beautiful garden.”

Davis said her neighbor would quietly tend to her garden and pridefully showoff the fruits of her labors.

Clayton County District 1 Commissioner Sonna Singleton said she will miss her constituent-turned-friend.

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Pauline Knight

“She was somebody I looked up to,” said Singleton, adding they both were graduates of Tennessee State University.

“She was just the kindest, most gentle lady,” she said. “She did not harbor hatred or resentment from what she experienced. That impressed me so much that she was still such a loving soft-spoken sweet lady.”

Singleton said she regularly visited Knight and expressed her gratitude to her for fight for equal rights.

“In the Baptist church we have an expression: ‘Give me my flowers while I yet live because when I am gone I cannot smell them, enjoy them or see them,’” said Singleton. “I’m honored that I had an opportunity to give her some flowers while she was alive.”

Knight grew up one of 14 children in Nashville, Tenn. She had one child of her own, Durrette Ofosu, later in her life.

“I feel that all she wanted to be was a mother,” said Ofosu. “She wasn’t supposed to be able to have children. She was 42 years old when she had me. It was a complicated pregnancy.”

Ofosu said her mother was actively involved in her Girl Scout Troop growing up.

“She was very loving, very attentive,” she said. “She wanted to instill in me values and a sense of community and family.”

Ofosu said her mother was compelled by “a higher sense of right” to become a Freedom Rider her sophomore year in college. In 1960, she became an active member of The Student Central Committee of the Nashville Christian Leadership Council.

“She just got up and started walking and ended up at the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] office,” she said. “I definitely don’t take for granted the work she and other Freedom Riders and Civil Rights leaders did.”

Knight spent time in a Jackson, Miss., jail with other Freedom Riders. They were arrested for their civil disobedience and passive protests against segregated interstate travel in the 1960s.

“People spit on them and hit them but she loved them because they were children of God,” Ofosu said. “My generation cannot forget what they fought for. We also need not take in vain what they worked for. The movement continues to evolve with each generation. With each generation new rights need to be fought for.”