On May 4, 1961, a group of African-American and white civil rights activists launched the Freedom Rides, a series of bus trips through the American South to protest segregation among African Americans and whites. The Freedom Riders, who were recruited by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a U.S. civil rights group, departed from Washington, D.C., and attempted to integrate facilities at bus terminals along the way into the Deep South. But Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. discouraged their action and didn’t want to get in the bus as he believed it was a dangerous attempt. On their journey, they experienced some horrific actions from white people in the south especially from Alabama.
The Freedom Riders encountered violence in South Carolina, but in Alabama the reaction was much more severe. On May 14, upon stopping outside Anniston to change a slashed tire, one bus was firebombed and the Freedom Riders were beaten. Arriving in Birmingham, the second bus was similarly attacked and the passengers beaten. In both cases law enforcement was suspiciously late in responding. Although the original Riders were unable to find a bus line to carry them farther, a second group led by Diane Nash, originating in Nashville and partly organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), renewed the effort. Furious by being arrested in Birmingham and transported back to Tennessee, the new Freedom Riders returned to Birmingham and, at the insistence of U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, secured a bus and protection from the State Highway Patrol as they traveled to Montgomery, where the local police failed to protect them, they were again beaten. The bus finally made it to Mississippi. Once in the bus terminal in the Mississippi capital, Jackson city police arrested all of the demonstrators for violating a recently passed breach of the peace statute. They were convicted and fined $200 each. When the riders refused to pay, the judge sentenced them to 90 days in...
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