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"We were prepared for the possibility of death" Freedom Riders in the South, 1961.

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  • "White Freedom Riders were singled out for particularly brutal beatings. Reporters and news photographers were attacked first and their cameras destroyed, but there is a famous picture taken later of Jim Zwerg in the hospital, beaten and bruised. Ambulances refused to take the injured to the hospital. Local African Americans rescued them, and a number of the Freedom Riders were hospitalized. When news of the Montgomery attack reached Washington, Robert Kennedy was appalled. He immediately decided to send federal marshals to the city. [--] On the following night, Sunday, May 21, more than 1500 people packed Reverend Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church to honor the Freedom Riders. Among the speakers were Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Farmer. Outside, a mob of more than 3,000 whites attacked African Americans, with a handful of the U.S. Marshals protecting the church from assault and fire bombs. With city and state police making no effort to restore order, President Kennedy threatened to commit federal troops, but Governor Patterson forestalled that by ordering the Alabama National Guard to disperse the mob. [--] After the violence at the church, Robert Kennedy asked for a cooling-off period. The Freedom Riders, however, were intent on continuing. James Farmer explained, "[W]e'd been cooling off for 350 years, and...if we cooled off any more, we'd be in a deep freeze." The Riders decided to continue on to Mississippi. They were given good protection as they entered the state, and no mob greeted them at the Jackson bus terminal. Robert Kennedy and Mississippi Senator James O. Eastland had reached a compromise. Kennedy promised not to use federal troops if there was no mob violence. Both men kept up their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, the Freedom Riders were now at the mercy of the local courts. On May 25, they were tried. As their attorney defended them, the judge turned his back. Once the attorney finished, he turned around and sentenced them to 60 days in the state penitentiary. [--] More Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson to continue the Freedom Ride, and they were arrested too. Freedom Riders continued to arrive in the South, and by the end of the summer, more than 300 had been arrested. [--] The Freedom Riders never made it to New Orleans. Many spent their summer in jail. Some were scarred for life from the beatings they received. But their efforts were not in vain. They forced the Kennedy administration to take a stand on civil rights, which was the intent of the Freedom Ride in the first place. In addition, the Interstate Commerce Commission, at the request of Robert Kennedy, outlawed segregation in interstate bus travel in a ruling, more specific than the original Supreme Court mandate, that took effect in September, 1961. The Freedom Riders may not have finished their trip, but they made an important and lasting contribution to the civil rights movement. --About this collection"
  • "Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated South to test the United States Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia. Boynton had outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel, but the ICC had failed to enforce its own ruling, and thus Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South. The Freedom Riders set out to challenge this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses."
  • "In 1947, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) planned a "Journey of Reconciliation," designed to test the Supreme Court's 1946 decision in the Irene Morgan case, which declared segregated seating of interstate passengers unconstitutional. An interracial group of passengers met with heavy resistance in the upper South. Some members of the group served on a chain gang after their arrest in North Carolina. The "Journey of Reconciliation" quickly broke down. Clearly the South, even the more moderate upper South, was not ready for integration.[--] Nearly a decade and a half later, John F. Kennedy was elected president, in large part due to widespread support among African Americans who believed that Kennedy was more sympathetic to the civil rights movement. To test the president's commitment to civil rights, CORE proposed a new Journey of Reconciliation, dubbed the "Freedom Ride." The strategy was the same: an interracial group would board buses destined for the South. The whites would sit in the back and the African Americans in the front. At rest stops, the whites would go into blacks-only areas and vice versa. "This was not civil disobedience, really," explained CORE director James Farmer, "because we [were] merely doing what the Supreme Court said we had a right to do." But the Freedom Riders expected to meet resistance. "When we began the ride I think all of us were prepared for as much violence as could be thrown at us. We were prepared for the possibility of death." [--] The Freedom Ride left Washington DC on May 4, 1961. It was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17, the seventh anniversary of the Brown decision. Unlike the original Journey of Reconciliation, the Freedom Ride met little resistance in the upper South. --About this collection"
  • "On Mother's Day, May 14, the Freedom Riders split up into two groups to travel through Alabama. The first group was met by a mob of about 200 angry people in Anniston. The mob stoned the bus and slashed the tires. The bus managed to get away, but when it stopped about six miles out of town to change the tires, it was firebombed. The other group did not fare any better. It was greeted by a mob in Birmingham, and the Riders were severely beaten. Birmingham's Public Safety Commissioner, Bull Conner, claimed he posted no officers at the bus depot because of the holiday; however, it was later discovered that the FBI knew of the planned attack and that the city police stayed away on purpose. Alabama governor John Patterson offered no apologies, explaining, "When you go somewhere looking for trouble, you usually find it.... You just can't guarantee the safety of a fool and that's what these folks are, just fools." [--] Despite the violence, the Freedom Riders were determined to continue. After two days of unsuccessful negotiations, the Freedom Riders, fearing for their safety, flew to New Orleans. It appeared that the Freedom Ride was over. [--] At that point, however, a group of Nashville sit-in students decided to go to Birmingham and continue the Freedom Ride. The Nashville students traveled to Birmingham and asked the bus company to let them use their buses. Attorney general Robert Kennedy also leaned on the bus company and the Birmingham police. He was determined to enforce the Supreme Court's decision that called for integration of interstate travel, and he worried that if the Nashville students remained in Birmingham much longer, violence might erupt. On May 17, the Birmingham police arrested the Nashville Freedom Riders and placed them in protective custody. At 2 am on Friday, the police drove the Riders back to Tennessee, dumping them by the side of the highway at the state line. After they got a ride back to Nashville, 100 miles away, they went right back to Birmingham. [--] Meanwhile, Governor Patterson agreed to meet with John Seigenthaler, a Justice Department aide and a native of Tennessee. In the meeting, Floyd Mann, head of the state highway patrol, agreed to protect the Freedom Riders in between Birmingham. Attorney General Robert Kennedy then pressured the Greyhound bus company, which finally agreed to carry the Riders. The Freedom Riders left Birmingham on Saturday, May 20. Police protection, however, disappeared as the Freedom Riders entered the Montgomery city limits. At the bus station on South Court Street, a white mob awaited and beat the Freedom Riders with baseball bats and iron pipes. The local police allowed the beatings to go on uninterrupted. Floyd Mann tried to stop the mob, but it continued to beat the Riders and those who came to their aid, such as Justice Department official John Seigenthaler, who was beaten unconscious and left in the street for nearly a half an hour after he stopped to help two Freedom Riders. Mann finally ordered in state troopers, but the damage was already done. --About this collection"
  • "Freedom Riders were civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated South to test the United States Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia. Boynton had outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel, but the ICC had failed to enforce its own ruling, and thus Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South. The Freedom Riders set out to challenge this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses. --About this collection"

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  • ""We were prepared for the possibility of death" Freedom Riders in the South, 1961."
  • "Freedom Riders in the South, 1961"
  • ""We Were Prepared for the Possibility of Death:" Freedom Riders in the South, 1961"