How did the freedom riders change history
Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Raymond ArsenaultThey were black and white, young and old, men and women. In the spring and summer of 1961, they put their lives on the line, riding buses through the American South to challenge segregation in interstate transport. Their story is one of the most celebrated episodes of the civil rights movement, yet a full-length history has never been written until now. In these pages, acclaimed historian Raymond Arsenault provides a gripping account of six pivotal months that jolted the consciousness of America.
The Freedom Riders were greeted with hostility, fear, and violence. They were jailed and beaten, their buses stoned and firebombed. In Alabama, police stood idly by as racist thugs battered them. When Martin Luther King met the Riders in Montgomery, a raging mob besieged them in a church. Arsenault recreates these moments with heart-stopping immediacy. His tightly braided narrative reaches from the White House--where the Kennedys were just awakening to the moral power of the civil rights struggle--to the cells of Mississippis infamous Parchman Prison, where Riders tormented their jailers with rousing freedom anthems. Along the way, he offers vivid portraits of dynamic figures such as James Farmer, Diane Nash, John Lewis, and Fred Shuttlesworth, recapturing the drama of an improbable, almost unbelievable saga of heroic sacrifice and unexpected triumph.
The Riders were widely criticized as reckless provocateurs, or outside agitators. But indelible images of their courage, broadcast to the world by a newly awakened press, galvanized the movement for racial justice across the nation. Freedom Riders is a stunning achievement, a masterpiece of storytelling that will stand alongside the finest works on the history of civil rights.
The Heinous 1961 KKK Attack on the Freedom Riders
The Freedom Riders, Then and Now
In , men and women from throughout the nation arrived in Washington, D. The riders endured beatings and arson attempts from white supremacist mobs, but their struggles paid off when segregationist policies on interstate bus and rail lines were struck down. In the case Boynton v. Virginia , the U. Supreme Court declared segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional. The goal? To test the Supreme Court ruling on segregated interstate travel in the Confederate states.
Traveling on buses from Washington, D. Although the campaign succeeded in securing an Interstate Commerce Commission ICC ban on segregation in all facilities under their jurisdiction, the Freedom Rides fueled existing tensions between student activists and Martin Luther King, Jr. Called the Journey of Reconciliation, the ride challenged bus segregation in the upper parts of the South, avoiding the more dangerous Deep South. On 4 May , the freedom riders left Washington, D. Although they faced resistance and arrests in Virginia, it was not until the riders arrived in Rock Hill, South Carolina, that they encountered violence. The beating of Lewis and another rider, coupled with the arrest of one participant for using a whites-only restroom, attracted widespread media coverage. In the days following the incident, the riders met King and other civil rights leaders in Atlanta for dinner.
This group of civil rights activists made history
When most of the demonstrators were arrested in North Carolina, the police effectively aborted the Journey of Reconciliation. Recalling that failed effort 15 years earlier, James Farmer organized a new generation of black and white activists to travel on interstate buses to test the United States Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia which reiterated the earlier ruling prohibiting racial segregation in interstate transportation. This time CORE organized a dozen activists who were paired into two interracial sets of Freedom Riders who would travel on Greyhound and Trailways buses, respectively, from Washington, D. The Freedom Riders continued, however, and crossed Georgia without incident. When the activists reached Alabama on May 14 the attacks intensified.
On Sunday, May 14, —Mother's Day—scores of angry white people blocked a Greyhound bus carrying black and white passengers through rural Alabama. The attackers pelted the vehicle with rocks and bricks, slashed tires, smashed windows with pipes and axes and lobbed a firebomb through a broken window. As smoke and flames filled the bus, the mob barricaded the door. Even then some were pummeled with baseball bats as they fled. A few hours later, black and white passengers on a Trailways bus were beaten bloody after they entered whites-only waiting rooms and restaurants at bus terminals in Birmingham and Anniston, Alabama. The bus passengers assaulted that day were Freedom Riders, among the first of more than volunteers who traveled throughout the South on regularly scheduled buses for seven months in to test a Supreme Court decision that declared segregated facilities for interstate passengers illegal.