Ed Blankenheim

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Ed Blankenheim
Born Lake Benton, MN
Nationality United States
Known for Civil Right Activist

Edward Norval "Ed" Blankenheim (March 16, 1934 – September 26, 2004) was one of the original thirteen freedom riders who rode Greyhound buses in 1961 as part of the US civil rights movement, in an effort to desegregate transit systems.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Blankenheim was born on March 16, 1934 in Lake Benton, Minnesota. He moved with his family to Chicago at age 10.[2] He served in the US Marine Corps in the Korean War[3] and observed Southern racism during his time in the Corps.[2]

A Greyhound bus during the 1950s, similar to the ones that the Freedom Riders would have traveled on.

While studying chemistry at the University of Arizona, he became involved with the civil rights movement, and joined the Congress of Racial Equality. Ed was one of the few white people who participated in local civil rights activities. He started out by becoming involved with Tucson, Arizona's NAACP Youth Council and later became a leader for a division of CORE known as the Students for Equality.[4] In 1961, sixteen civil rights workers boarded buses to test the 1960 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in all interstate public facilities.[5] The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who traveled on interstate buses into southern United States practicing non-violent protests that challenged the Jim Crow travel laws. The Freedom Riders met violent protests the deeper they traveled south and were almost always greeted with violence. They endured countless violent actions, threats, beatings, and even the risk of death every time they traveled to a new bus station.[6]

During the journey and upon arriving in Anniston, Alabama an angry mob attacked the Greyhound bus. The mob firebombed the bus, but the passengers managed to escape. The riders were regrouped by the mob and severely beaten. Ed was hit in the face with a tire iron and lost several teeth.[3] Police looked away as the riders were severely beaten by the angry mob. Facing danger, injury, and death Ed managed to survive the attack.

He was interviewed on National Public Radio in 2001 on the 40th anniversary of the freedom rides.[7] That year he rode on a bus to recreate the first freedom ride, but this time was welcomed as a hero, in contrast to the beatings and bus burning of 1961. He and his wife Pam had one son and two daughters.[2]

He died on September 26, 2004.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Roster of Freedom Riders". American Experience, PBS. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Richard Knee (September 27, 2004). "Freedom rider Ed Blankenheim dies at 70". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 2011-04-08. "Edward Norval Blankenheim was born March 16, 1934, in Lake Benton, Minn., and moved with his family to Chicago at age 10. At 15, according to Pam Blankenheim, he lied about his age to join the Marine Corps, going first to Paris Island, S.C., and then to Camp Lejeune. ..." 
  3. ^ a b Buchanan
  4. ^ Arsenault, page 102
  5. ^ http://freedomridersfoundation.org/
  6. ^ http://www.core-online.org/History/freedom%20rides.htm
  7. ^ Raymond Arsenault (2006). Freedom Riders: 1961 and the struggle for racial justice. Oxford University Press. p. 608. ISBN 978-0-19-513674-6. 

External links[edit]

Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print. Page 102.