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Transcript of Freedom Riders
What Happened ?
The Freedom Riders decided to ride down south, although, they were warned by Rev. Shuttlesworth they were stopped by the FBI and the KKK in Anniston, Alabama. An angry mob started to surround the bus and started to attack the bus. They busted the windows, slash the tires, threw bricks/stones at the bus. The mob then threw a bomb in the bus, afraid it would explode the mob ran away and the riders quickly got off the bus before it really exploded. The mob started beating them when they got off the bus. When the highway patrolmen came they stopped the mob and the riders were sent to the hospital.
Jim Zwerg was a white man that was almost beaten to death left with injuries of a cracked skull from an iron pipe, a broken leg, cuts, and bruises.
Why did they start the freedom rides?
It was because of the disregard from the law and local segregationists who refused to get rid of their “whites only” signs and other discriminating things they had in bus terminals and train stations throughout the South. Which called the Freedom Riders into action.
The Freedom Riders never made it to New Orleans but their goal to change segregated interstate travel was achieved. Their strategy to board an interracial group onto a bus and travel down into the South payed off in the end when they called national attention to the enforced segregation and made the American Civil Rights Movement even stronger. This forced the Kennedy administration to take a stand on civil rights and on November 1, 1961 laws passed by the ICC prohibited segregation in interstate bus travel.
William E. Harbour
Rev. Benjamin Elton Cox
Mae Frances Moultrie
Catherine Burks Brooks
The original Freedom Riders consisted of 13 members; African-American and white.
Some of them were college students.
The destination of the Freedom Riders
May 4th: Freedom Riders leave D.C.
Scene of first violence
May 14th: Buses attacked and firebombed. Freedom Riders beaten
May 14th: Riders severely beaten. New volunteers arrive from Nashville.
May 20th: Riders beaten once again. Federal marshals arrive. Abernathy and King lead mass rally.
May 24/25: Mass arrests in bus terminal
Freedom Riders Poem
Today we stand together side by side
Hoping that we make it through to the next day
Either being beat up or put in jail
For standing up for the rights that they deserve
Rights that were set in place to segregate races
Eye's were opened up to the world when the SNCC
Eventually got tired of segregation and started a group ride
Determined to ride through the South and change history
Only problem is not everybody likes these group rides
Many people would do bad things to the people on the bus
Riots were becoming a problem in the South
Injuries and casualties were building up as time went on
Doing everything they can just to stop segregation
Even kids in Collage joined the Freedom Rides
Ready to see the change in the country
Soon after the Freedom Rides we did change as a country
In 1961, CORE undertook a group of people in an effort to end segregation on public transportation throughout the South. This new group was known as the Freedom Riders. The original group of thirteen Freedom Riders left Washington D.C. on May 4th, 1961 and they were scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17th.
The group meet resistance as they continued down South, but it wasn't until Rock Hill, South Carolina that the riders faced violence. In Rock Hill, John Lewis and another rider were viciously attacked as they attempted to enter a whites-only waiting room.
On May 14, when the riders arrived in Anniston, Alabama their bus was surrounded by a mob of about 200 white people (members of the KKK). When the bus driver tried to leave the station the tires were slashed. The bus managed to get away, but when it stopped several miles out of town to change the tires, it was firebombed and the mob held the doors leading out of the bus shut. The riders were able to flee out of the bus but the mob attacked the riders. Many were injured and several were left with permanent injuries.
The other group of riders were not doing any better that same day. When the second bus arrived in Birmingham, Alabama those riders were also attacked by members of the KKK. They were attacked with metal pipes, baseball bats, and bicycle chains. In this attack, white Freedom Riders were especially targeted. When some of the Freedom Riders went to go get hospitalized, they were refused care. By this time the Freedom Riders movement was getting a lot of publicity and despite the violence the riders suffered they wanted to continue. However, CORE could not find bus drivers to transport the riders and it appeared that the Freedom Ride was over. When news of the end of the Freedom Rides reached a group of Nashville students, they decided to go to Birmingham and continue the Freedom Ride.
Robert Kennedy petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to pass a regulation making segregation illegal in interstate travel. In September 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ruled that segregation in interstate bus travel was outlawed. The laws were officially effective on November 1, 1961. This meant that the:
passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains
"white" and "colored" signs were removed from the terminals
racially segregated drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms serving interstate customers were consolidated
lunch counters began serving all customers, regardless of race.
The Freedom Riders began their trip for civil rights in Washington D.C. They planned to ride through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and ending in Louisiana. The riders experienced some acts of major violence, one act occurring in Birmingham, Alabama. They were then safely escorted to Mississippi but right when they used white only facilities, the riders were immediately arrested. Many rounds of riders all drove into Jackson, Mississippi with a plan of filling the jails. After the jails were filled, inmates were transferred directly to the state penitentiary where the received abusive treatment. The Freedom Riders never made it to their destination, but they sure did prove a point and gained much support and publicity.
In 1947, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) planned a "Journey of Reconciliation" to test the Supreme Court's 1946 decision in the Irene Morgan case. In Irene Morgan vs. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation in interstate travel is unconstitutional. However, many southern states refused to enforce the new law. The Journey of Reconciliation was a two week pilgrimage in 1947 by eight black men and eight white men, undertaken to challenge Jim Crow segregation in the Deep South. Members of the team were often arrested and charged several times. In North Carolina, the police arrested some of the members and found them guilty of violating the state's Jim Crow bus statute and were sentenced to thirty days on a chain gang. The Journey served as an inspiration for the Freedom Riders.
When the new group of Freedom Riders reached Birmingham they were immediately arrested. However the police drove the Riders back up to Tennessee and dumped them by the side of the highway at the state line because while in jail the riders kept singing cheerful freedom songs. After they went back to Nashville, they immediately returned to Birmingham.
U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy wanted to arrange a way for the riders to get to their destination safely so he negotiated with Governor Patterson of Alabama. On May 20, the Freedom Ride left for Montgomery, protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol.
However, as soon as the Freedom Riders reached Montgomery, the police protection disappeared. The bus was then swarmed at a bus station by an angry mob. Jim Zwerg, a white rider, bravely marched off the bus first and he was severely beaten by the mob with baseball bats and iron pipes.
The riders decided to continue on to Mississippi. On May 22, more Freedom Riders from CORE and SNCC arrived in Montgomery to continue the rides and on May 24, 1961, a group of Freedom Riders departed Montgomery for Jackson, Mississippi.
In Jackson, Mississippi the Freedom Riders were greeted with a large crowd that supported their movement. However they were once again arrested for attempting to use the whites-only restrooms. At the hearing the judge turned his back when their attorney defended them. The judge then sentenced the Freedom Riders to 60 days in the state penitentiary.