NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In May 1961, 13 men and women boarded a bus in Washington, D.C., sure for New Orleans to have fun the seventh anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Educationdecision that desegregated public schools.
Their mission was twofold, with the second goal being to challenge the laws regarding segregated interstate travel in the South.
They did so, however not with out concern within the face of violence. The buses they rode on have been bombed. They have been overwhelmed and jailed, however their spirits weren’t damaged.
More than 400 individuals would finally take part within the motion often known as the Freedom Rides. These are the tales of the 13 individuals — college students, a pastor and retired educators among them — who began all of it.
Raised by a professor who taught divinity at Howard University, James Farmer Jr. was a pacifist who sought to attain racial justice by nonviolent activism.
Often a goal of racial violence, Farmer helped to form the Civil Rights Movement when he launched The Freedom Rides to problem the efforts to dam the desegregation of interstate busing.
“We were told that the racists, the segregationists, would go to any extent to hold the line on segregation in interstate travel. So when we began the ride I think all of us were prepared for as much violence as could be thrown at us. We were prepared for the possibility of death,” Farmer stated in a 1985 interview.
The nationwide director and co-founder of the primary Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter in 1942, Farmer set the inspiration for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts within the mid-Sixties.
He spent 41 days in Mississippi jails. One of essentially the most memorable moments of that point, he stated, was when these jailed alongside him in metal and concrete cells with straw-filled mattresses sang freedom songs collectively, regardless of being threatened by guards.
He would go on to function assistant secretary of well being, training and welfare beneath President Nixon. In 1998, Farmer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A rumor, then a gunshot:How ‘Black Wall Street’ was decimated in the Tulsa Race Massacre
James Peck was born right into a rich household in New York City. He dropped out of Harvard University to grow to be a full-time activist and was the one individual to take part in each the Freedom Rides and Journey of Reconciliation.
“By encouraging and supporting actions such as that in Montgomery, we who adhere to the principles of nonviolence hope to hasten complete abolition of segregation within our social system,” Peck wrote in CORE’s introduction to Martin Luther King’s 1957 article, “Our Struggle: The Journey of Montgomery.”
Genevieve Hughes (1932-2012)
One of the three girls to take part within the early days of the Freedom Rides, Genevieve Hughes give up her job as a stockbroker to grow to be the sector secretary of CORE and civil rights activist.
“I figured Southern women should be represented to the South and the nation would realize all Southern people don’t think alike,” she stated of her cause to affix CORE.
She, together with John Lewis and Al Bigelow sustained accidents when a number of white males attacked them at a bus terminal in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on May 10, 1961.
Texas Republicans’ voting invoice led to a dramatic walkout:What we know about the fight over elections
Joe Perkins (1933-1976)
Joe Perkins was the primary Freedom Rider arrested for sitting at a whites-only shoeshine stand in Charlotte, North Carolina, based on PBS. After spending two days in jail, he caught up with the group and led the Freedom Riders on the Greyhound bus, which was burned in Anniston, Alabama.
Perkins was recruited by CORE in August 1960 and have become often known as a masterful organizer.
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Perkins was educated at Kentucky State University and served within the Army for 2 years. He later pursued a graduate diploma on the University of Michigan.
Walter Bergman (1899-1999)
Walter Bergman graduated highschool when he was solely 15 and was drafted into the Army throughout World War I. When he noticed the devastation in Germany, he grew to become a pacifist.
A former union activist and faculty professor, Bergman grew to become a sufferer of McCarthyism in 1953 when the state division seized his passport whereas he was teachingin Denmark. He retired from educating and have become a Freedom Rider when he was 61 years previous.
The oldest of the original 13 members, Bergman suffered a stroke after being savagely overwhelmed by the Ku Klux Klan in Anniston, Alabama. He would by no means stroll once more. Bergman was awarded $35,000 of the $2 million he sought in lawsuit in opposition to the federal authorities in 1983.
Frances Bergman (1904-1979)
A civil rights activist alongside her husband Walter Bergman, Frances Bergman was a college instructor and member of the American Civil Liberties Union and Socialist Party of America. After she and her husband retired from training, they volunteered to trip on the primary bus that left Washington on May 4, 1961.
At 57, she was the oldest of the feminine Freedom Riders.
Albert Bigelow (1906–1993)
A Boston native, Bigelow studied at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He labored as an architect earlier than heading off to World War II with the Navy.
Bigelow was an activist previous to his time as a Freedom Rider. He opposed the usage of nuclear weapons after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, and opened up his residence to survivors of Hiroshima who have been searching for reconstructive surgical procedure. Following the struggle, he and a small crew set out for the South Pacific to disrupt and protest atomic testing. They have been jailed for 60 days in Hawaii.
He was 55 when he joined the Freedom Riders. Bigelow and former U.S. Rep. John Lewis have been the primary to face violence after trying to combine a whites-only ready room in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Lewis was struck first as Bigelow stepped in between Lewis and his attackers.
“It had to look strange to these guys to see a big, strong white man putting himself in the middle of a fistfight like this, not looking at all as if he was ready to throw a punch, but not looking frightened either,” Lewis wrote in his memoir “Walking with the Wind.”
Jimmy McDonald (1933–2000)
McDonald was 29 years previous when he joined the Freedom Riders and was thought-about the least disciplined of the group when it got here to adhering to its non-violent mantra.
As a teen within the late Nineteen Forties, McDonald, based on creator Raymond Arsenault, campaigned for a Progressive Party presidential candidate. Later, he grew to become a folks singer in New York City earlier than becoming a member of the Freedom Riders. McDonald noticed the bus journey as an journey, and stated he was introduced alongside for his singing capacity.
“I was not sent because I had a lot of intellect,” he recalled in 1969; “. . . certainly I was not in there because I wanted to be like Gandhi,” he stated in Arsenault’s e book “Freedom Riders.”
McDonald would later go to work on tv for BET, the place he hosted two packages. He was additionally the chief director of the Yonkers Human Rights Commission and a 30-year activist for the NAACP.
Ed Blankenheim (1934–2004)
Prior to turning into a Freedom Rider, Blankenheim’s expertise as a younger Marine in North Carolina, the place he witnessed segregation and racism, laid the groundwork for his position within the Civil Rights motion.
After leaving the navy, Blankenheim enrolled in courses on the University of Arizona, the place he helped Black college students affected by housing discrimination. He additionally joined the NAACP and shortly after was provided a spot as a Freedom Rider.
Blankenheim was 27 when the bus he rode into Anniston, Alabama, was set on fireplace on Mother’s Day 1961. He escaped the blaze, however misplaced a number of tooth after being hit within the face with a tire iron.
“We’ll roast them alive! We’ll roast them alive!” is what the group shouted, Blankenheim told NPR in 2001. Blankenheim labored for just a few years within the South testing bus stations to make sure that they have been following the legal guidelines and have been totally built-in earlier than finally settling in San Francisco, the place he labored as a carpenter.
Hank Thomas (1941- )
Thomas, who grew up in Florida, was solely 19 years previous when he joined the Freedom Riders. He too was one of many riders attacked in Anniston, Alabama, after their bus caught fireplace.
Thomas later served within the Vietnam War as a medic in 1965. He was wounded in fight and awarded the Purple Heart. While serving in Vietnam, just some years after his time as a Freedom Rider, he shot down a Confederate flag flying above an Army base.
An entrepreneur, Thomas first purchased a laundromat earlier than occurring to personal a number of fast-food franchises and resorts.
Rev. B. Elton Cox (1931-2011)
Cox, 29, was a pastor in High Point, North Carolina, when he based the primary Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter. After assembly with James Farmer, director of CORE, he was requested to grow to be a Freedom Rider.
One of 16 youngsters, Cox stated he protested an A&W Restaurant in Illinois as a teen due to its shoddy service towards Black clients. In highschool, Cox and different college students have been profitable in persuading employees to cease the singing of a music in music class that he stated had degrading racial overtones.
In December 1961, Cox lead a peaceable demonstration in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the place he was arrested and charged. In 1965 in Cox v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court dominated in his favor, on the grounds Louisiana regulation disadvantaged him the appropriate to free speech and meeting.
Cox was arrested almost 20 occasions in the course of the civil rights motion and spent quite a few days in jail.
Now essentially the most well-known of first Freedom Riders, Lewis is taken into account one of many “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights motion. He represented Georgia within the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 2020.
Not lengthy after the group set out, Lewis, then 21, was attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In one other assault in the course of the rides, a white mob beat Lewis unconscious in Montgomery, Alabama. Jailed quite a few occasions, he additionally spent almost 40 days within the Mississippi State Prison, often known as Parchman Farm, for getting into a “white” restroom as a Freedom Rider.
For a number of years till his loss of life, starting in 2014, Lewis posted his mugshots on Twitter every year to mark the anniversary of his Mississippi arrest.
“During the time I was being beaten and other times when I was being beaten, I had what I called an executive session with myself. I said I’m gonna take it, I’m prepared. On the Freedom Ride, I was prepared to die,” he stated throughout a 2011 look on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Charles Person (1943- )
Person was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the place hatred towards Black individuals was rampant.
He needed to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however in the course of the time many universities weren’t prepared to look past his pores and skin coloration to think about his mind. After a number of denials, Person attended Morehouse College and waded deep into the politics and racism of society by taking part in rallies and dealing with discrimination head-on.
He would spend weeks behind bars after being arrested at protests.
He joined the Freedom Riders at age 18 and would go down in historical past because the youngest original member.
Though he wasn’t on the bus that caught on fireplace in Anniston, Alabama, Person did not come out of the journey unscathed. He skilled nightmares some males solely see in struggle: burning automobiles with the doorways held shut whereas individuals burned inside, caravans in search of individuals to lynch and blood leaking into his eyes after relentless beatings.
About this collection
In May 1961, the primary Freedom Riders departed on their journey by the South to problem segregated buses, bus terminals, lunch counters and different amenities related to interstate journey.
These activists could be confronted, usually violently, by police and mobs of white residents, drawing worldwide consideration to social inequity in what grew to become a pivotal second within the civil rights motion.
This 12 months, the USA TODAY Network is inspecting the legacy of those trailblazers and the way it informs our present second.