The Freedom Riders

DeVon Hayes-American History II


In the 1960's, a civil rights movement organization called the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, used multiple different tactics to help end the concept of racial segregation. Segregation in public transportation was one of the examples african-americans were treated unfairly. To ensure desegregation would take place, CORE organized Freedom riders consisting of thirteen black and white volunteers to set an example to segregation in the transportation system. On May 4, 1961, The first freedom riders departed from Washington, D.C. towards the Deep South.

The Trip

The Freedom Riders' primary purpose was to test the Boynton v. Virginia Supreme Court ruling and challenge segregation in the interstate transportation system by visiting bus terminals of towns and cities in the Deep South. Entering the Deep South, the Riders faced serious resistance traveling through the Carolinas, mainly from Charlotte, NC and Rock Hill, SC. Traveling further into the Deep South, resistance became more violent and severe. Entering Alabama, one of the buses were firebombed and the passengers were severely injured. The second bus continued on to Birmingham, Alabama to only meet with a large angry mob of KKK members and local police. Many of the riders were brutally beaten and the bus was demolished. Their journey ended when the remaining of the riders were forced to take a plane to New Orleans.


  • The Nashville Student Movement volunteered Freedom Riders after CORE ceased to accept volunteers.
  • The Freedom Riders that departed from D.C. met Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia during their trip. King then warned them about the Ku Klux Klan waiting for their arrival in Alabama. Knowing this, The Freedom Riders continued to their journey.
  • The majority of Freedom Rides were ended in Jackson, Mississippi, where officers arrested them "for their own protection." Those who were arrested were often sent to Parchman State Prison Farm.
  • The Interstate Commerce Commission prohibited segregation in the transportation system as protest arose at railroads and airports.
  • The Boynton v. Virginia case ruled that segregation in interstate transportation in unconstitutional but Segregation was still being exercised in the Deep South.