Freedom Riders Facts

Freedom Riders Facts
The Freedom Riders were a group of American civil rights activists who rode interstate buses in 1961 across the southern states in defiance of Jim Crow laws. Although segregated seating was illegal on interstate buses, such as Greyhound and Trailways lines, as stated in the Supreme Court rulings Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company (1955) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), the practice was continued nonetheless. In order to get the federal government to enforce the rulings, which would be carried out by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), civil rights activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), among other groups, organized a series of "Freedom Rides" whereby black and white activists would break the segregated seating rules as they traveled through the south. The Freedom Rides began on May 4, 1961 when thirteen Freedom Riders left Washington, D.C. on two buses, a Greyhound and a Trailways. The riders encountered death threats and harassment, but it was not until they arrived in Alabama on May 14 when they were subjected to organized violence. As Birmingham police commissioner stood by, scores of armed men led by members of the Ku Klux Klan descended on the Freedom Riders, sending many of them to the hospital. The Greyhound bus was later firebombed by Klansmen on the outskirts of the city. Various Freedom Rides continued throughout 1961, often being stopped by violence, until November 1961 when the ICC enacted new policies that banned segregated seating on interstate buses and in lunch counters and waiting rooms of bus terminals. The American Civil Rights movement then changed its focus to challenge Jim Crow laws within each southern state as well as voting rights for blacks.
Interesting Freedom Riders Facts:
The idea of Freedom Rides CORE president James Farmer.
After the initial Freedom Rides, most of the subsequent rides took place in the Mississippi.
Most rides were done by nearly and equal number of white and black Freedom Riders.
Although President John Kennedy was sympathetic to some aspects of the Civil Rights movement, he was highly critical of the Freedom Rides because he thought they made the United States look bad in the eyes of the world, especially to the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union used images of the anti-Freedom Rider violence in Alabama in their propaganda.
Freedom riders were often arrested and not given bail. So many Freedom Riders were arrested in Mississippi that the local, county, and state authorities began housing arrested riders in the maximum security state prison.
The precursor to the Freedom Rides was the 1947 "Journey of Reconciliation" in which activists challenged segregated interstate busing by riding in a racially mixed group and ignoring the segregated seating rules.
Injured Freedom Riders were often denied hospital care and sometimes had to be recused by groups of armed, local black citizens.
The worst of the mob violence was usually reserved for the white Freedom Riders, whom the Klan viewed as racial traitors and instigators.
Nearly all of the white Freedom Riders were from northern states.

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