|Part of the Civil Rights Movement|
|Date||May 4 – December 10, 1961|
(7 months and 6 days)
|Parties to the civil conflict|
Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960),which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.
Racial segregation in the United States is the separation of so-called racial groups in aspects of daily life. For most of United States history, segregation maintained the separation of African Americans from whites. The term also applies to the segregation of racial groups from one (another) especially the segregation of people of color from whites.
The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, Dixieland, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions.
Boynton outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. [ page needed ] Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company (1955) that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel. The ICC failed to enforce its ruling, and Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South.[ citation needed ]
The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. Throughout the 20th century several of ICC's authorities were transferred to other federal agencies. The ICC was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court issued in 1896. It upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality – a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal". The decision legitimized the many state laws re-establishing racial segregation that had been passed in the American South after the end of the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877).
The Freedom Riders challenged this status quo by riding interstate buses in the South in mixed racial groups to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation in seating. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement. They called national attention to the disregard for the federal law and the local violence used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Police arrested riders for trespassing, unlawful assembly, violating state and local Jim Crow laws, and other alleged offenses, but often they first let white mobs attack them without intervention.
Unlawful assembly is a legal term to describe a group of people with the mutual intent of deliberate disturbance of the peace. If the group is about to start the act of disturbance, it is termed a rout; if the disturbance is commenced, it is then termed a riot. In Britain, the offence was abolished in 1986.
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sponsored most of the subsequent Freedom Rides, but some were also organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Freedom Rides, beginning in 1960, followed dramatic sit-ins against segregated lunch counters conducted by students and youth throughout the South, and boycotts of retail establishments that maintained segregated facilities.
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States that played a pivotal role for African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement. Founded in 1942, its stated mission is "to bring about equality for all people regardless of race, creed, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background."
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was one of the major American Civil Rights Movement organizations of the 1960s. It emerged from the first wave of student sit-ins and formed at a May 1960 meeting organized by Ella Baker at Shaw University. After its involvement in the Voter Education Project, SNCC grew into a large organization with many supporters in the North who helped raise funds to support its work in the South, allowing full-time organizers to have a small salary. Many unpaid grassroots organizers and activists also worked with SNCC on projects in the Deep South, often becoming targets of racial violence and police brutality. SNCC played a seminal role in the freedom rides, the 1963 March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Selma campaigns, the March Against Fear and other historic events. SNCC may be best known for its community organizing, including voter registration, freedom schools, and localized direct action all over the country, but especially in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
A sit-in or sit-down is a form of direct action that involves one or more people occupying an area for a protest, often to promote political, social, or economic change.
The Supreme Court's decision in Boynton supported the right of interstate travelers to disregard local segregation ordinances. Southern local and state police considered the actions of the Freedom Riders to be criminal and arrested them in some locations. In some localities, such as Birmingham, Alabama, the police cooperated with Ku Klux Klan chapters and other white people opposing the actions, and allowed mobs to attack the riders.
Birmingham is a city in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. With an estimated 2017 population of 210,710, it is the most populous city in Alabama. Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous and fifth largest county. As of 2017, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 1,149,807, making it the most populous in Alabama and 49th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.
The Ku Klux Klan, commonly called the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist hate group. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the United States. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white nationalism, anti-immigration and—especially in later iterations—Nordicism and anti-Catholicism. Historically, the Klan used terrorism—both physical assault and murder—against groups or individuals whom they opposed. All three movements have called for the "purification" of American society and all are considered right-wing extremist organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends and enemies.
The Freedom Riders were inspired by the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, led by Bayard Rustin and George Houser and co-sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the then-fledgling Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Like the Freedom Rides of 1961, the Journey of Reconciliation was intended to test an earlier Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel. Rustin, Igal Roodenko, Joe Felmet and Andrew Johnnson, were arrested and sentenced to serve on a chain gang in North Carolina for violating local Jim Crow laws regarding segregated seating on public transportation.
The Journey of Reconciliation was a form of nonviolent direct action to challenge state segregation laws on interstate buses in the Southern United States. The two-week journey by 16 men began on April 9, 1947. It was seen as inspiring the later Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement from May 1961 onward. James Peck, one of the white participants, also took part in the Freedom Ride of May 1961.
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights.
George Mills Houser was an American Methodist minister, civil rights activist, and activist for the independence of African nations. He served on the staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The first Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961. Led by CORE Director James Farmer, 13 riders (seven black, six white, including Genevieve Hughes, William E. Harbour, and Ed Blankenheim)left Washington, DC, on Greyhound (from the Greyhound Terminal) and Trailways buses. Their plan was to ride through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, ending in New Orleans, Louisiana, where a civil rights rally was planned. Most of the Riders were from CORE, and two were from SNCC. Many were in their 40s and 50s. Some were as young as 18.
The Freedom Riders' tactics for their journey were to have at least one interracial pair sitting in adjoining seats, and at least one black rider sitting up front, where seats under segregation had been reserved for white customers by local custom throughout the South. The rest of the team would sit scattered throughout the rest of the bus. One rider would abide by the South's segregation rules in order to avoid arrest and to contact CORE and arrange bail for those who were arrested.
Only minor trouble was encountered in Virginia and North Carolina, but John Lewis was attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Some of the Riders were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina; Winnsboro, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.
The Birmingham, Alabama, Police Commissioner, Bull Connor, together with Police Sergeant Tom Cook (an avid Ku Klux Klan supporter), organized violence against the Freedom Riders with local Klan chapters. The pair made plans to bring the Ride to an end in Alabama. They assured Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informerand member of Eastview Klavern #13 (the most violent Klan group in Alabama), that the mob would have fifteen minutes to attack the Freedom Riders without any arrests being made. The plan was to allow an initial assault in Anniston with a final assault taking place in Birmingham.
On May 14, Mother's Day, in Anniston, Alabama, a mob of Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two buses (the Greyhound). The driver tried to leave the station, but was blocked until KKK members slashed its tires.The mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town and then threw a firebomb into it. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, and the riders escaped the bus. The mob beat the riders after they got out. Only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched. The roadside site in Anniston and the downtown Greyhound station were preserved as part of the Freedom Riders National Monument in 2017.
Some injured riders were taken to Anniston Memorial Hospital. AM, because the staff feared the mob outside the hospital. The local civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth organized several cars of black citizens to rescue the injured Freedom Riders in defiance of the white supremacists. The black people were under the leadership of Colonel Stone Johnson and were openly armed as they arrived at the hospital, protecting the Freedom Riders from the mob.That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders, most of whom had been refused care, were removed from the hospital at 2
When the Trailways bus reached Anniston and pulled in at the terminal an hour after the Greyhound bus was burned, it was boarded by eight Klansmen. They beat the Freedom Riders and left them semi-conscious in the back of the bus.
When the bus arrived in Birmingham, it was attacked by a mob of KKK membersaided and abetted by police under the orders of Commissioner Bull Connor. As the riders exited the bus, they were beaten by the mob with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains. Among the attacking Klansmen was Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informant. White Freedom Riders were singled out for especially frenzied beatings; James Peck required more than 50 stitches to the wounds in his head. Peck was taken to Carraway Methodist Medical Center, which refused to treat him; he was later treated at Jefferson Hillman Hospital.
When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Alabama to try to calm the situation.
Despite the violence suffered and the threat of more to come, the Freedom Riders intended to continue their journey. Kennedy had arranged an escort for the Riders in order to get them to Montgomery, Alabama, safely. However, radio reports told of a mob awaiting the riders at the bus terminal, as well as on the route to Montgomery. The Greyhound clerks told the Riders that their drivers were refusing to drive any Freedom Riders anywhere.Recognizing that their efforts had already called national attention to the civil rights cause and wanting to get to the rally in New Orleans, the Riders decided to abandon the rest of the bus ride and fly directly to New Orleans from Birmingham. When they first boarded the plane, all passengers had to exit because of a bomb threat.
Diane Nash, a Nashville college student who was a leader of the Nashville Student Movement and SNCC, believed that if Southern violence were allowed to halt the Freedom Rides the movement would be set back years. She pushed to find replacements to resume the rides. On May 17, a new set of riders, 10 students from Nashville who were active in the Nashville Student Movement, took a bus to Birmingham, where they were arrested by Bull Connor and jailed.
The students kept their spirits up in jail by singing freedom songs. Out of frustration, Connor drove them back up to the Tennessee line and dropped them off, saying, "I just couldn't stand their singing."They immediately returned to Birmingham.
In answer to SNCC's call, Freedom Riders from across the Eastern US joined John Lewis and Hank Thomas, the two young SNCC members of the original Ride, who had remained in Birmingham. On May 19, they attempted to resume the ride, but, terrified by the howling mob surrounding the bus depot, the drivers refused. Harassed and besieged by the mob, the riders waited all night for a bus.
Under intense public pressure from the Kennedy administration, Greyhound was forced to provide a driver. After direct intervention by Byron White of the Attorney General's office, Alabama Governor John Patterson reluctantly promised to protect the bus from KKK mobs and snipers on the road between Birmingham and Montgomery.On the morning of May 20, the Freedom Ride resumed, with the bus carrying the riders traveling toward Montgomery at 90 miles an hour, protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol.
The Highway Patrol abandoned the bus and riders at the Montgomery city limits. At the Montgomery Greyhound station on South Court Street, a white mob awaited. They beat the Freedom Riders with baseball bats and iron pipes. The local police allowed the beatings to go on uninterrupted.Again, white Freedom Riders were singled out for particularly brutal beatings. Reporters and news photographers were attacked first and their cameras destroyed, but one reporter took a photo later of Jim Zwerg in the hospital, showing how he was beaten and bruised. Seigenthaler, a Justice Department official, was beaten and left unconscious lying in the street. Ambulances refused to take the wounded to the hospital. Local black residents rescued them, and a number of the Freedom Riders were hospitalized.
On the following night, Sunday, May 21, more than 1500 people packed into Reverend Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church to honor the Freedom Riders. Among the speakers were Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had led the 1955-1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Farmer. Outside, a mob of more than 3,000 white people attacked the black attendees, with a handful of the United States Marshals Service protecting the church from assault and fire bombs. With city and state police making no effort to restore order, the civil rights leaders appealed to the President for protection. President Kennedy threatened the governor to intervene with federal troops if he would not protect the people. Governor Patterson forestalled that by finally ordering the Alabama National Guard to disperse the mob, and the Guard reached the church in the early morning.
In a commemorative Op-Ed piece in 2011, Bernard Lafayette remembered the mob breaking windows of the church with rocks and setting off tear gas canisters. He recounted heroic action by King. After learning that black taxi drivers were arming and forming a group to rescue the people inside, he worried that more violence would result. He selected ten volunteers, who promised non-violence, to escort him through the white mob, which parted to let King and his escorts pass as they marched two by two. King went out to the black drivers and asked them to disperse, to prevent more violence. King and his escorts formally made their way back inside the church, unmolested.Lafayette also was interviewed by the BBC in 2011 and told about these events in an episode broadcast on the radio on August 31, 2011, in commemoration of the Freedom Rides. The Alabama National Guard finally arrived in the early morning to disperse the mob and safely escorted all the people from the church.
The next day, Monday, May 22, more Freedom Riders from CORE and SNCC arrived in Montgomery to continue the rides through the South and replace the wounded riders still in the hospital. Behind the scenes, the Kennedy administration arranged a deal with the governors of Alabama and Mississippi, where the governors agreed that state police and the National Guard would protect the Riders from mob violence. In return, the federal government would not intervene to stop local police from arresting Freedom Riders for violating segregation ordinances when the buses arrived at the depots.
On Wednesday morning, May 24, Freedom Riders boarded buses for the journey to Jackson, Mississippi.Surrounded by Highway Patrol and the National Guard, the buses arrived in Jackson without incident, but the riders were immediately arrested when they tried to use the white-only facilities at the Tri-State Trailways depot. The third bus arrived at the Jackson Greyhound station early on May 28, and its Freedom Riders were arrested.
In Montgomery, the next round of Freedom Riders, including the Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Gaylord Brewster Noyce,and southern ministers Shuttlesworth, Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker, and others were similarly arrested for violating local segregation ordinances.
This established a pattern followed by subsequent Freedom Rides, most of which traveled to Jackson, where the Riders were arrested and jailed. Their strategy became one of trying to fill the jails. Once the Jackson and Hinds County jails were filled to overflowing, the state transferred the Freedom Riders to the infamous Mississippi State Penitentiary (known as Parchman Farm). Abusive treatment there included placement of Riders in the Maximum Security Unit (Death Row), issuance of only underwear, no exercise, and no mail privileges. When the Freedom Riders refused to stop singing freedom songs, prison officials took away their mattresses, sheets, and toothbrushes. More Freedom Riders arrived from across the country, and at one time, more than 300 were held in Parchman Farm.
While in Jackson, Freedom Riders received support from local grassroots civil rights organization Womanpower Unlimited, which raised money and collected toiletries, soap, candy and magazines for the imprisoned protesters. Upon Freedom Riders' release, Womanpower members would provide places for them to bathe while offering them clothes and food. Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland said the Womanpower members "were like angels supplying us with just little simple necessities."
The Kennedys called for a "cooling off period" and condemned the Rides as unpatriotic because they embarrassed the nation on the world stage at the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union criticized the United States for its racism and the attacks on the Riders.Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the chief law-enforcement officer of the land, was quoted as saying that he "does not feel that the Department of Justice can side with one group or the other in disputes over Constitutional rights." His comment angered civil rights supporters, who considered the Justice Department duty-bound to enforce Supreme Court rulings and defend citizens exercising their Constitutional rights from mob violence.
Nonetheless, international outrage about the widely covered events and racial violence created pressure on American political leaders. On May 29, 1961, Attorney General Kennedy sent a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) asking it to comply with the bus-desegregation ruling it had issued in November 1955, in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company . That ruling had explicitly repudiated the concept of "separate but equal" in the realm of interstate bus travel. Chaired by the South Carolina Democrat J. Monroe Johnson the ICC had failed to implement its own ruling.
James Farmer, head of CORE, responded to Kennedy saying, "We have been cooling off for 350 years, and if we cooled off any more, we'd be in a deep freeze."
CORE, SNCC, and the SCLC rejected any "cooling off period". They formed a Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to keep the Rides rolling through June, July, August, and September.During those months, more than 60 different Freedom Rides criss-crossed the South, most of them converging on Jackson, where every Rider was arrested, more than 300 in total. An unknown number were arrested in other Southern towns. It is estimated that almost 450 people participated in one or more Freedom Rides. About 75% were male, and the same percentage were under the age of 30, with about equal participation from black and white citizens .
During the summer of 1961, Freedom Riders also campaigned against other forms of racial discrimination. They sat together in segregated restaurants, lunch counters and hotels. This was especially effective when they targeted large companies, such as hotel chains. Fearing boycotts in the North, the hotels began to desegregate their businesses.
In mid-June, a group of Freedom Riders had scheduled to end their ride in Tallahassee, Florida, with plans to fly home from the Tallahassee airport. They were provided a police escort to the airport from the city's bus facilities. At the airport, they decided to eat at a restaurant that was marked "For Whites Only". The owners decided to close rather than serve the mixed group of Freedom Riders. Although the restaurant was privately owned, it was leased from the county government. Canceling their plane reservations, the Riders decided to wait until the restaurant re-opened so they could be served. They waited until 11:00 pm that night and returned the following day. During this time, hostile crowds gathered, threatening violence. On June 16, 1961, the Freedom Riders were arrested in Tallahassee for unlawful assembly. That arrest and subsequent trial became known as Dresner v. City of Tallahassee. Convictions of the Riders were appealed to the US Supreme Court in 1963, which refused to hear the case based on technical reasons.
In early August, SNCC staff members James Forman and Paul Brooks, with the support of Ella Baker, began planning a Freedom Ride in solidarity with Robert F. Williams. Williams was an extremely militant and controversial NAACP chapter president for Monroe, North Carolina. After making the public statement that he would "meet violence with violence," (since the federal government would not protect his community from racial attacks) he had been suspended by the NAACP national board over the objections of Williams' local membership. Williams continued his work against segregation however, and was facing repeated attempts on his life because of it. Some SNCC staff members sympathized with the local community's proclivity for armed self-defense, although many on the ride to Monroe saw this as an opportunity to prove the superiority of Gandhian nonviolence over the use of force.
The Freedom Riders in Monroe were brutally attacked by white supremacists with the approval of local police. On August 27, James Forman - SNCC's Executive Secretary - was struck unconscious with the butt of a rifle and taken to jail with numerous other demonstrators. Police and civilian white supremacists roamed the town shooting at black people, who returned the gunfire. Robert F. Williams fortified the black neighborhood against attack and in the process briefly detained a white couple who had gotten lost there. The police accused Williams of kidnapping and called in the state militia and FBI to arrest him, in spite of the couple being quickly released. Certain he would be lynched, Williams fled and eventually found refuge in Cuba. Movement lawyers, eager to disengage from the situation, successfully urged the Freedom Riders not to practice the normal "jail-no bail" strategy in Monroe. Local officials, also apparently eager to de-escalate, found demonstrators guilty but immediately suspended their sentences.One Freedom Rider however, John Lowry, went on trial for the kidnapping case, along with several associates of Robert F. Williams, including Mae Mallory. Monroe legal defense committees were popular around the country, but ultimately Lowry and Mallory served prison sentences. In 1965, their convictions were vacated due to the exclusion of black citizens from the jury selection.
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By September it had been over three months since the filing of the petition by Robert Kennedy. CORE and SNCC leaders made tentative plans for a mass demonstration known as the "Washington Project". This would mobilize hundreds, perhaps thousands, of nonviolent demonstrators to the capital city to apply pressure on the ICC and the Kennedy administration. The idea was pre-empted when the ICC finally issued the necessary orders just before the end of the month.The new policies went into effect on November 1, 1961, six years after the ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company . After the new ICC rule took effect, passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains; "white" and "colored" signs were removed from the terminals; racially segregated drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms serving interstate customers were consolidated; and the lunch counters began serving all customers, regardless of race.
The widespread violence provoked by the Freedom Rides sent shock waves through American society. People worried that the Rides were evoking widespread social disorder and racial divergence, an opinion supported and strengthened in many communities by the press. The press in white communities condemned the direct action approach that CORE was taking, while some of the national press negatively portrayed the Riders as provoking unrest.
At the same time, the Freedom Rides established great credibility with black and white people throughout the United States and inspired many to engage in direct action for civil rights. Perhaps most significantly, the actions of the Freedom Riders from the North, who faced danger on behalf of southern black citizens, impressed and inspired the many black people living in rural areas throughout the South. They formed the backbone of the wider civil rights movement, who engaged in voter registration and other activities. Southern black activists generally organized around their churches, the center of their communities and a base of moral strength.
The Freedom Riders helped inspire participation in other subsequent civil rights campaigns, including voter registration throughout the South, freedom schools, and the Black Power movement. At the time, most black Southerners had been unable to register to vote, due to state constitutions, laws and practices that had effectively disfranchised most of them since the turn of the 20th century. For instance, white administrators supervised reading comprehension and literacy tests that highly educated black people could not pass.
|Ride||Date||Carrier or terminal||Point of departure||Destination||Ref.||Note|
|Original CORE Freedom Ride||May 4–17, 1961||Trailways||Washington, D.C.||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Greyhound||Washington, D.C.||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Nashville Student Movement Freedom Ride||May 17–21, 1961||Birmingham, Alabama||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Connecticut Freedom Ride||May 24–25, 1961||Greyhound||Atlanta, Georgia||Montgomery Alabama|
|Interfaith Freedom Ride||June 13–16, 1961||Greyhound||Washington, D.C.||Tallahassee, Florida|
|Organized Labor–Professional Freedom Ride||June 13–16, 1961||Washington, D.C.||St. Petersburg, Florida|
|Missouri to Louisiana CORE Freedom Ride||July 8–15, 1961||St. Louis, Missouri||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|New Jersey to Arkansas CORE Freedom Ride||July 13–24, 1961||Newark, New Jersey||Little Rock, Arkansas|
|Los Angeles to Houston Freedom Ride||August 9–11, 1961||Union Railway Station||Los Angeles, California||Houston, Texas|
|Monroe Freedom Ride||August 17–September 1, 1961||Monroe, North Carolina|
|Prayer Pilgrimage Freedom Ride||September 13, 1961||Trailways||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Albany Freedom Rides||November 1, 1961||Trailways (terminal only)||Atlanta, Georgia|
|Trailways||Atlanta, Georgia||Albany, Georgia|
|November 22, 1961||Trailways (terminal only)||Albany, Georgia|
|December 10, 1961||Central Georgia Railroad||Atlanta Terminal Station||Albany, Georgia (Union Station)|
|McComb Freedom Rides||November 29, 1961||Greyhound||New Orleans, Louisiana||McComb, Mississippi|
|December 1, 1961||Greyhound||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||McComb, Mississippi|
|December 2, 1961||Greyhound||Jackson, Mississippi||McComb, Mississippi|
|Date||Carrier or terminal||Point of departure||Destination||Ref.||Note|
|May 24, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Greyhound||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|May 28, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Trailways||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|May 30, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 2, 1961||Trailways (#1)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Trailways (#2)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 6, 1961||Trailways||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 7, 1961||Trailways||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Hawkins Field (airport)||St. Louis, Missouri||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 8, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Hawkins Field (airport)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 9, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 10, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 11, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 16, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 19, 1961||Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 20, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 21, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 23, 1961||Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|June 25, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 2, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 5, 1961||Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 6, 1961||Jackson Union Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 7, 1961||Jackson Union Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 9, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 15, 1961||Greyhound||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 16, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 21, 1961||Hawkins Field (airport terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 23, 1961||Trailways||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 24, 1961||Hawkins Field (airport)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 29, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 30, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi|
|July 31, 1961||Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
|August 5, 1961||Trailways (bus and terminal)||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi|
|August 13, 1961||Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi|
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Oprah Winfrey invited all living Freedom Riders to join her TV program to celebrate their legacy. The episode aired on May 4, 2011.
On May 6–16, 2011, 40 college students from across the United States embarked on a bus ride from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, retracing the original route of the Freedom Riders.The 2011 Student Freedom Ride, which was sponsored by PBS and American Experience, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original Freedom Rides. Students met with civil rights leaders along the way and traveled with original Freedom Riders such as Ernest "Rip" Patton, Joan Mulholland, Bob Singleton, Helen Singleton, Jim Zwerg, and Charles Person. On May 16, 2011, PBS aired a documentary called Freedom Riders .
On May 19–21, 2011, the Freedom Rides were commemorated in Montgomery, Alabama, at the new Freedom Ride museum in the old Greyhound Bus terminal, where some of the violence had taken place in 1961. On May 22–26, 2011, the arrival of the Freedom Rides in Jackson, Mississippi was commemorated with a 50th Anniversary Reunion and Conference in the city.During commemorative events in February 2013 in Montgomery, Congressman John Lewis accepted the apologies of Chief Kevin Murphy of the Montgomery Police Department; Murphy gave Lewis his own badge, off his uniform, moving Lewis to tears.
In late 2011, Palestinian activists, inspired by the freedom riders, used the same methods in Israel by boarding a bus from which they were excluded.
In January, 2017, President Barack Obama declared the Anniston, Alabama bus station the Freedom Riders National Monument.
The 1980s PBS series, Eyes on the Prize, had an episode, "Ain't Scared of Your Jails: 1960-1961," which gave attention to the Freedom Riders. It included an interview with James Farmer.
PBS in 2012 broadcast Freedom Riders as part of its American Experience series. It included interviews and news footage from the Freedom Riders movement.
Dan Shore's 2013 opera Freedom Ride, set in New Orleans, celebrates the Freedom Riders.
The Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical is a theater musical retelling the story of the Freedom Rides.The musical was created by Los Angeles screenwriter/director Richard Allen, and San Diego native music artist Taran Gray. Richard and Taran finalized the music in March 2016, and by April of the same year were asked to perform excerpts from their musical as a BETA Event at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF). The FREEDOM RIDERS musical received NYMF's inaugural BETA Event Award, and is scheduled to return to New York, summer of 2017, for an Off-Broadway run as part of NYMF's festival.
James Morris Lawson, Jr. is an American activist and university professor. He was a leading theoretician and tactician of nonviolence within the Civil Rights Movement. During the 1960s, he served as a mentor to the Nashville Student Movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was expelled from Vanderbilt University for his Civil Rights activism in 1960, and later served as a pastor in Los Angeles, California, for 25 years.
James Leonard Farmer Jr. was an American civil rights activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement "who pushed for nonviolent protest to dismantle segregation, and served alongside Martin Luther King Jr." He was the initiator and organizer of the first Freedom Ride in 1961, which eventually led to the desegregation of interstate transportation in the United States.
Frederick Lee "Fred" Shuttlesworth was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, initiated and was instrumental in the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, and continued to work against racism and for alleviation of the problems of the homeless in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he took up a pastorate in 1961. He returned to Birmingham after his retirement in 2007. He helped Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.
Diane Judith Nash is an American civil rights activist, and a leader and strategist of the student wing of the Civil Rights Movement.
Bernard Lafayette, Jr. is a longtime civil rights activist and organizer, who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He played a leading role in early organizing of the Selma Voting Rights Movement; was a member of the Nashville Student Movement; and worked closely throughout the 1960s movements with groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the American Friends Service Committee.
The Freedom Rides Museum is located at 210 South Court Street in Montgomery, Alabama, in the building which was until 1995 the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station. It was the site of a violent attack on participants in the 1961 Freedom Ride during the Civil Rights Movement. The May 1961 assaults, carried out by a mob of white protesters who confronted the civil rights activists, "shocked the nation and led the Kennedy Administration to side with civil rights protesters for the first time."
The First Baptist Church on North Ripley Street in Montgomery, Alabama, is a historic landmark. Founded in downtown Montgomery in 1867 as one of the first black churches in the area, it provided an alternative to the second-class treatment and discrimination African-Americans faced at the other First Baptist Church in the city.
Charles Person is an African-American civil rights activist who participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides. He was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Following his 1960 graduation from David Tobias Howard High School, he attended Morehouse College. Person was the youngest Freedom Rider on the original Congress of Racial Equality Freedom Ride.
James Zwerg is an American former minister who was involved with the Freedom Riders in the early 1960s.
William E. Harbour is an American civil rights activist who participated in the Freedom Rides. He was one of several youth activists involved in the latter actions, along with John Lewis, William Barbee, Paul Brooks, Charles Butler, Allen Cason, Catherine Burks, and Lucretia Collins.
Edward Norval "Ed" Blankenheim was an American civil rights activist and one of the original 13 Freedom Riders who rode Greyhound buses in 1961 as part of the Civil Rights Movement, in an effort to desegregate transit systems.
Genevieve Hughes Houghton ("HOW-ton") (1932–2012) is known as one of three women participants in the original 13-person Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Rides.
Henry "Hank" James Thomas is an American civil rights activist and entrepreneur. Thomas was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders who traveled on Greyhound and Trailways buses through the South in 1961 to protest racial segregation, holding demonstrations at bus stops along the way.
This is a timeline of the American civil rights movement, a nonviolent freedom movement to gain legal equality and the enforcement of constitutional rights for African Americans. The goals of the movement included securing equal protection under the law, ending legally established racial discrimination, and gaining equal access to public facilities, education reform, fair housing, and the ability to vote.
Mary Salynn (Selyn) McCollum was the only white female Freedom Rider during the leg from Nashville, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama on May 17, 1961.
Gary Thomas Rowe Jr., known in Witness Protection as Thomas Neil Moore, was a paid informant and agent provocateur for the FBI. As an informant, he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan to monitor and disrupt it, and incited violence as part of the FBI's COINTELPRO project. Rowe was accused of participating in and helping to plan violent Klan activity against African Americans and civil rights groups.
Joan Pleune was one of the original Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement in 1961. She was arrested for participating in the bus trip against segregation from New Orleans, Louisiana to Jackson, Mississippi. Now Pleune participates in the Granny Peace Brigades and has been arrested several times for her activist work.
Meryle Joy Reagon is an American civil rights movement activist born in 1942. In June 1961, she participated in a Freedom Ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi. She is also known as the husband of another Freedom Rider, Frederick Leonard and sister of Cordell Reagon.
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