May20 1961

Freedom Rides

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    Black Church

    One institution in the Black community that gave birth not only to the Civil Rights Movement but to the leaders of the movement was the Black church. It was the backbone of the CRM from the beginning. It was one of the only places that Blacks could congregate in the early days of the CRM, to facilitate the meetings and training that the CRM and its leaders needed.
  • Fellowship of Reconciliation

    Fellowship of Reconciliation
    The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is the parent organization of CORE. They helped organize an interracial bus ride across state lines to test the Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on interstate buses unconstitutional.
  • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

    Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
    Young college students created the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) because they were not welcomed in the SCLC in 1942. MLK and the SCLC wanted students to form their own organizations that they'd support with nonviolent protests.
  • Morgan v. Virginia

     Morgan v. Virginia
    Ruling in the Supreme Court case that made segregation in interstate transportation illegal
  • Journey of Reconciliation

    Journey of Reconciliation
    The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation organize an interracial bus ride across state lines to test the Supreme Court decision that declares segregation on interstate buses unconstitutional. The ride challenged bus segregation in the upper parts of the South, avoiding the more dangerous Deep South. The lack of confrontation resulted in little media attention and failure to realize CORE’s goals for the rides.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education
    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wins the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case in 1954. The case's ruling was that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional.
  • Montgomery Bus Boycott

    Montgomery Bus Boycott
    The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) members provided advice and support to Martin Luther King during the Montgomery bus boycott.
  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference

    Southern Christian Leadership Conference
    The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was created by ministers who thought they knew how to win the civil rights movement best. Their goal was to spread the spirit of the bus boycott to other parts of the South and lead non-violent protests against segregation.
  • Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

    Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee
    The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created by college students who were not allowed into the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition (SCLC) in 1960.
  • Boynton v. Virginia

    Boynton v. Virginia
    In 1960 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Boynton v. Virginia that segregation in the facilities provided for interstate travelers, such as bus terminals, restaurants, and restrooms, was unconstitutional. To test this decision, members of CORE started the Freedom Rides.
  • 1st Freedom Ride

    1st Freedom Ride
    Student activists from CORE launch the first freedom ride. Their original plan is to travel from Washington, DC, to Jackson, Mississippi, to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals and the decision of Boynton v. Virginia. On May 4th, Freedom riders leave Washington, D.C., in two buses and head to New Orleans.
  • Rock Hill, South Carolina

    Rock Hill, South Carolina
    Freedom Riders pass easily through Virginia and North Carolina but first experience violence when arriving in Rock Hill, SC. Riders John Lewis, Al Bigelow, and
    Genevieve Hughes are beaten up in Rock Hill, and one other is arrested.
  • Anniston, Alabama

    Anniston, Alabama
    On Mother's Day, the Freedom Riders reach Anniston, Alabama, where they are attacked by a mob of over 100 KKK members. They attack the Greyhound bus, smashing the windows and slashing the tires. The bus
    tries to flee, but the attackers give chase, halting it on the
    outskirts of town, then set it on fire. The mob attempts to trap the riders, but they can escape before the bus bursts into flames and are brutally attacked.
  • Birmingham, Alabama

    Birmingham, Alabama
    The Trailways bus reaches Anniston, and the mob boards the bus, beating the Riders with fists and clubs. The bus manages to escape Anniston and reaches Birmingham, AL, where Commissioner of Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor encourages another KKK mob to attack the Freedom Riders again, leaving them bloody and battered. The FBI knows in advance that the two busses are going to be attacked in Anniston and Birmingham, but they do nothing to prevent the violence
  • Freedom Rides End

    Freedom Rides End
    Although the violence garnered national media attention, the attacks prompted James Farmer of CORE to end the campaign. Drivers for the Greyhound and Trailways buses also refused to give rides to the Freedom Riders. The riders flew to New Orleans, ending the first Freedom Ride of the 1960s.
  • SNCC Students Resume the Freedom Ride

    SNCC Students Resume the Freedom Ride
    Activists from the SNCC-affiliated Nashville Student Movement (NSM) won't allow the KKK to defeat the Ride and decide to continue the Freedom Rides despite the danger. Ten Riders (8 Black & 2 white) take a bus from Nashville to Birmingham on May 17. Arriving in Birmingham, they are immediately arrested and jailed but then taken to Tennesee and left on the side of the road. They return to Birmingham again, but this time with 19 Freedom Riders.
  • Montgomery, Alabama

    Montgomery, Alabama
    The Kennedy administration gets a reluctant promise from Alabama Governor Patterson to protect the Freedom Riders on their journey from Birmingham to Montgomery. Greyhound is forced to provide a driver, and then the Freedom Ride resumes. Afraid of a Klan ambush, the bus speeds south towards Montgomery at 90 miles an hour, escorted by Alabama Highway Patrol cars. Once arriving at the state line, however, the patrol cars abandon the bus, and the riders are mobbed at the terminal.
  • JFK, Robert Kennedy, & MLK

    JFK, Robert Kennedy, & MLK
    John F. Kennedy issues a tepid “statement of concern,” and Robert Kennedy orders Federal Marshals to Alabama to protect interstate commerce because of the violence. Hearing of the violence, Martin Luther King left Chicago and returned to Montgomery, where he planned a rally.
  • Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church

    Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church
    Over 1,200 black men, women, & children pack Reverend Abernathy's 1st Baptist church. Outside, a mob of over 3,000 white people set a car on fire and shatter church windows, throwing tear gas inside. President Kennedy moves towards committing federal troops, but Governor Patterson stalls him by declaring martial law and sending in the Alabama National Guard to disperse the mob. The people try to leave but the Guard forces them to remain inside the gas-filled tear building for the night.
  • Kennedys Deal with Alabama and Mississippi

    More Freedom Riders from CORE and SNCC begin to arrive in Montgomery, AL. The Kennedys cut a deal with the governors of Alabama and Mississippi. The governors agree to have their state police and National Guard protect the Riders from mob violence. In return, the federal government agreed to look the other way and allow the states to illegally and unconstitutionally arrest the Freedom Riders.
  • Arrests in Jackson, Mississippi

    Arrests in Jackson, Mississippi
    On Wednesday morning, a dozen Freedom Riders board a Trailways bus for the 250-mile journey to Jackson, MS. Surrounded by Highway Patrol and National Guard, the bus heads towards Mississippi. Meanwhile, back in Montgomery, 14 more Riders board the mid-day Greyhound for Jackson. When the weary Riders arrive in Jackson and attempt to use “white only” restrooms and lunch counters, they are immediately arrested for Breach of Peace and Refusal to Obey an Officer.
  • Kennedy "Cooling Off Period"

    Kennedy "Cooling Off Period"
    Kennedy called for a "cooling off period" and condemned the Freedom Riders as "unpatriotic" because they embarrassed the nation on the world stage. Kennedy's wish was for a "cooling off" period in which civil rights leaders pursued voting rights issues rather than conducting violence-provoking direct action
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    Cooling Off Period Ignored

    Defying the Kennedys, the organizations CORE, SNCC, and SCLC rejected any “cooling off period” and formed a Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to keep the Freedom Rides going. As a result, more than 60 Freedom Rides crisscrossed the South from June to July to August. Most of the rides converge on Jackson, where every Rider is arrested, and by the end of the summer, more
    than 300 have been jailed.
  • Robert Kennedy Petitions ICC

    Robert Kennedy Petitions ICC
    On May 29, Robert Kennedy formally petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to adopt stringent regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate bus travel. The proposed order removed Jim Crow signs in stations and ended segregation of waiting rooms, water fountains, and restrooms in interstate bus terminals later that same year, giving the Freedom Riders an unequivocal victory in their campaign.
  • ICC Bans Segregation

    ICC Bans Segregation
    The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) rules that segregation on interstate buses and facilities is illegal, and the law went into effect on November 1st, 1961.