18 Facts About Freedom Riders


Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated Southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Morgan v Virginia and Boynton v Virginia, which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional.

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The first Freedom Ride left Washington, DC on May 4,1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.

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Freedom Riders challenged this status quo by riding interstate buses in the South in mixed racial groups to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation in seating.

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The Freedom Riders Rides, beginning in 1960, followed dramatic sit-ins against segregated lunch counters conducted by students and youth throughout the South, and boycotts of retail establishments that maintained segregated facilities.

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Southern local and state police considered the actions of the Freedom Riders to be criminal and arrested them in some locations.

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Freedom Riders were inspired by the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, led by Bayard Rustin and George Houser and co-sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the then-fledgling Congress of Racial Equality.

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Over 300 Freedom Riders were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina; Winnsboro, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.

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White Freedom Riders were singled out for especially frenzied beatings; James Peck required more than 50 stitches to the wounds in his head.

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When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached US Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Alabama to try to calm the situation.

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In return, the federal government would not intervene to stop local police from arresting Freedom Riders for violating segregation ordinances when the buses arrived at the depots.

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In Montgomery, the next round of Freedom Riders, including the Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Gaylord Brewster Noyce, and southern ministers Shuttlesworth, Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker, and others were similarly arrested for violating local segregation ordinances.

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Freedom Riders arrested in Jackson included Stokley Carmichael, Catherine Burks, Gloria Bouknight, Luvahgn Brown, Margaret Leonard, Helen O'Neal, Hank Thomas, Carol Silver, Hezekiah Watkins, Peter Stoner, Byron Baer, and LeRoy Glenn Wright in addition to many more.

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On June 16,1961, the Freedom Riders were arrested in Tallahassee for unlawful assembly.

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The Freedom Riders were convicted of unlawful assembly by the Municipal Court of Tallahassee, and the convictions were affirmed in the Florida Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District.

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Freedom Riders was facing repeated attempts on his life because of it.

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Freedom Riders helped inspire participation in subsequent civil rights campaigns, including voter registration throughout the South, freedom schools, and the Black Power movement.

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The 2011 Student Freedom Riders Ride, which was sponsored by PBS and American Experience, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original Freedom Riders Rides.

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Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical is a theater musical retelling the story of the Freedom Rides.

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