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The Diary of a Freedom Rider

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Diary of a Freedom Rider Headed to New Orleans In 1960

Diary of a Freedom Rider leaving Washington headed to New Orleans and what they had to endure during this very difficult and violent time, even though a law had been passed prohibiting segregation. In the spring of 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sponsored “freedom rides.” Groups of black and white travelers rode through the South deliberately entering segregated bus terminals and restaurants. Local mobs often attacked the “freedom riders. (Moss & Thomas, 2013) The CORE organized a dozen activists who were paired into two interracial sets of Freedom Riders which traveled by Greyhound and Trailways buses traveling from Washington D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. The Freedom Riders left Washington on May 4, 1961 and traveled without any problems across Virginia and North Carolina. They began encountering violence for the first time at a bus terminal in Rock Hill, South Carolina, several white males beat black riders whom attempted to use a “whites only” restroom. The Freedom Riders continued their travels and crossed into Georgia without incident. The activists reached Alabama on May 14th and the attacks worsen, a mob met the Greyhound riders in Anniston, rocks were thrown and bus tires were slashed. The bus driver managed to drive the bus a few miles out of town. While the bus was stopped for repair of the tires, white supremacists firebombed the bus which ended that groups Freedom Ride. Freedom Riders which were riding on the Trailways bus also encountered violence. They too were assaulted by Anniston whites. The Trailways bus continued on to Birmingham where they encountered an even larger mob which beat them with baseball bats, lead pipes and bicycle chains. “The whites and blacks were beaten alike” (Let Freedom Ring, 2008). “Diane Nash, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was infuriated by the news of the vicious assaults she organized another group of Freedom Riders in Nashville” (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). According to “Blackpast.org V2.0, 2007-2011” (On May 14th the second group departed from Nashville to reinforce the efforts of the CORE Riders in Alabama). “Diane Nash and her group arrived in Birmingham on May 17th, Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Conner ordered his police officers to place the activists in protective custody” (Moss & Thomas, 2013). ‘The next morning the Freedom Riders were escorted by law official back to the Tennessee state line, leaving them on the side of the highway’(“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). Nash led the group 100 miles back to Nashville.
”On May 20, the Nashville riders were back in Birmingham where there were no incidents” (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). Then all of the Freedom Riders traveled on to Montgomery where a mob of men, women and children carrying baseball bats, tire irons and bricks met them at the terminal. As the riders departed from the bus, the angry gang swarmed, beating the passengers. ‘They attacked SNCC activists John Lewis and Jim Zwerg, who both sustained severe injuries’ (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). “When White House observer John Seigenthaler attempted to protect two of the Freedom Riders, Susan Wilbur and Susan Hermann, an attacker knocked him unconscious” (Let Freedom Ring, 2008).
The Freedom Riders failed to reach New Orleans, Louisiana (Moss & Thomas, 2013). However, according to “Blackpast.org V2.0, 2007-2011” (the international attention their efforts received forced Attorney General Robert Kennedy to petition the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to outlaw segregation in interstate travel). Unlike the earlier Supreme Court rulings which segregationists largely ignored, the ICC immediately imposed sanctions and penalties for the violation of its order. “On November 1, 1961, the new order went into effect across the nation” (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011).
“The Freedom Rides illuminated the courage of black and white youth and highlighted the leadership of Diane Nash” (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). “The Freedom Rides also inspired rural southern blacks to embrace civil disobedience as a strategy for regaining their civil rights” (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). “That inspiration would be seen in subsequent campaigns such as Mississippi’s Freedom Summer in 1964 and the Selma Movement in 1965 as well as in dozens of much less heralded efforts to register to vote or to integrate the region’s public schools” (“Blackpast.org V2.0”, 2007-2011). .

RESOURCES
BlackPast.org v2.0. (2007-2011). Retrieved from http://www.blackpast.org/aah/freedom-rides-1961
Let freedom ring: Moments from the civil rights movement, 1954-1965 [Video file].
(2008). In Films on Demand. Retrieved January 21, 2015, from http://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=7967&xtid=40565 Moss, G.D., & Thomas, E.A. (2013). Moving On: The American People Since 1945 (5th Ed.).
Boston, MA: Pearson

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