The Freedom Riders and the Civil Rights Movement
In 1947, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) planned a special journey called the “Journey of Reconciliation” designed to test the Supreme Court's 1946 decision in the Irene Morgan case, which declared segregated seating of interstate passengers unconstitutional. An interracial group of passengers met with heavy resistance in the upper South. Some members of the group served on a chain gang after they were arrested in North Carolina. The South was not ready for the integration. This journey is one that inspired the Freedom Riders to do the same and stand up and fight for their civil rights. With the Freedom Riders, the civil rights struggle reached a new plateau that even sit-ins managed to avoid.
In 1961, the Freedom Riders set out for the Deep South to defy Jim Crow laws and call for change. Freedom riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the 1960 United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia. Boynton v. Virginia had outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. The first freedom ride left Washington DC on May 4, 1961. It was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17. It was met with little resistance in the South. On Mother's Day, May 14, the Freedom Riders split up into two groups and planned to travel through Alabama. The first group was met by a mob of about 200 angry people when they arrived in Anniston. The mob then stoned the bus and slashed the tires. The bus managed to get away, but when it stopped about six miles out of town to change the tires, it was firebombed. The other bus encountered a similar roadblock when they ran into an angry mob in Birmingham. The Freedom Riders in that group were severely beaten. Birmingham's Public Safety Commissioner, Bull Conner, claimed he posted no officers at the bus depot because of the holiday;...
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