Freedom Riders

Mia Brady

The 1961 Freedom Rides, organized by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), were modeled after the organization’s 1947 Journey of Reconciliation. The Freedom Riders started with a group of 13 African-American and 6 white civil rights activists.The group encountered tremendous violence from white protestors along the route, but also drew international attention to their cause. During the 1947 action, African-American and white bus riders tested the 1946 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Morgan v. Virginia that segregated bus seating was unconstitutional. The 1961 Freedom Rides sought to test a 1960 decision by the Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional as well.
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What did the Freedom Riders do?

They took a series of bus trips through the American South to protest against segregation by blacks and whites who rode buses together through the South in 1961. In 1946 the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate bus travel. The Freedom Riders, who were recruited by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a U.S civil rights group, departed from Washington, DC and attempted to integrate facilities at bus terminals along the way to the deep south.

Massive Violence

In 1961 the Freedom Riders left Washington, DC in their plan to reach New Orleans, Louisiana. On May 14th 1961 they arrived in Anniston, Alabama. Where and angry mob of about 200 white people surrounded the bus causing the driver to continue past the bus station. The mob followed the bus and when the tires blew out, someone threw a bomb into the bus. The Freedom Riders escaped the bus as it burst into flames, only to be brutally beaten by members of the surrounding mob. On May 20th president John F. Kennedy negotiated with the governor of Alabama and the bus companies to secure a driver and state protection for the new group of Freedom Riders, who were finally resumed on a greyhound bus escorted by police officers.

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What the Freedom Riders Accomplished

The Freedom Riders did not make it to New Orleans but they had made their point and received a great deal of publicity. They had also got the Attorney-General involved. In September 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission introduced a ruling that was much tighter and less open to interpretation than the Supreme Court ruling of 1946. This ruling, concerning the integration of interstate transport, came into force on November 1st, 1961.
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