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The Big Ten - Crucial Events in the Modern Civil Rights Movement - The Freedom Rides - 1961

The Freedom Rides 0 Member Stories 0 Member Stories African American History American History American Presidents Assassinations Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Famous People Government History Law and Politics Social Studies The Kennedys

"The Freedom Rides", Freedom Rider Annie Lumpkin, Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail, Public Domain.

Boynton v Virginia (1960) which banned segregation in interstate travel, the southern states continued the practice.  In April 1947 sixteen men, eight white and eight black  from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) determined they would travel by bus throughout the south to prove that the bus companies continued to discriminate.  Their  two-week Journey of Reconciliation traveled through Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. They were arrested several times, but emboldened by the publicity their campaign was drawing. 

In 1961 James Farmer, the executive director of CORE, decided to replicate the 1947 trip.  A gender and racially mixed group left for the Freedom Rides on May 4.  This time the group journeyed throughout the deep south where they were met with tremendous violence.  In Anniston, Alabama the group was met with a mob of white men with clubs, knives, and bats.  Their bus was fire bombed and several of the Riders were severely beaten.  In Birmingham and Montgomery Alabama, the Freedom Riders again met some of the ugliest violence in the modern day freedom movement.  By then their bravery and determination had captured world wide attention and forced the President Kennedy and his administration to engage with the movement.

When they entered Jackson, Mississippi, there was no violence but many of the Freedom Riders were arrested.  They were locked up in the infamous Parchman Prison under squalid conditions.  The rides continued into the summer in spite of pleas from the Kennedy administration for a cooling off period.  As each group was arrested another group of Freedom Riders took its place aiming to fill the jails and force the ICC to comply with its own desegregation order.

Original Release: May 28, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016


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