|Part of the civil rights movement|
|Date||May 4 – December 10, 1961|
(7 months and 6 days)
|Parties to the civil conflict|
Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated Southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.
Boynton outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines.[page needed] Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company (1955) that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel. The ICC failed to enforce its ruling, and Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South.
The Freedom Riders challenged this status quo by riding interstate buses in the South in mixed racial groups to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation in seating. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement. They called national attention to the disregard for the federal law and the local violence used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Police arrested riders for trespassing, unlawful assembly, violating state and local Jim Crow laws, and other alleged offenses, but often they first let white mobs attack them without intervention.
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sponsored most of the subsequent Freedom Rides, but some were also organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Freedom Rides, beginning in 1960, followed dramatic sit-ins against segregated lunch counters conducted by students and youth throughout the South, and boycotts of retail establishments that maintained segregated facilities.
The Supreme Court's decision in Boynton supported the right of interstate travelers to disregard local segregation ordinances. Southern local and state police considered the actions of the Freedom Riders to be criminal and arrested them in some locations. In some localities, such as Birmingham, Alabama, the police cooperated with Ku Klux Klan chapters and other white people opposing the actions, and allowed mobs to attack the riders.
The Freedom Riders were inspired by the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, led by Bayard Rustin and George Houser and co-sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the then-fledgling Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Like the Freedom Rides of 1961, the Journey of Reconciliation was intended to test an earlier Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel. Rustin, Igal Roodenko, Joe Felmet and Andrew Johnnson, were arrested and sentenced to serve on a chain gang in North Carolina for violating local Jim Crow laws regarding segregated seating on public transportation.
The first Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961. Led by CORE Director James Farmer, 13 riders (seven black, six white, including Genevieve Hughes, William E. Harbour, and Ed Blankenheim) left Washington, DC, on Greyhound (from the Greyhound Terminal) and Trailways buses. Their plan was to ride through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, ending in New Orleans, Louisiana, where a civil rights rally was planned. Most of the Riders were from CORE, and two were from SNCC. Many were in their 40s and 50s. Some were as young as 18.
The Freedom Riders' tactics for their journey were to have at least one interracial pair sitting in adjoining seats, and at least one black rider sitting up front, where seats under segregation had been reserved for white customers by local custom throughout the South. The rest of the team would sit scattered throughout the rest of the bus. One rider would abide by the South's segregation rules in order to avoid arrest and to contact CORE and arrange bail for those who were arrested.
Only minor trouble was encountered in Virginia and North Carolina, but John Lewis was attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Some of the Riders were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina; Winnsboro, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.
Mob violence in Anniston and Birmingham
The Birmingham, Alabama, Police Commissioner, Bull Connor, together with Police Sergeant Tom Cook (an avid Ku Klux Klan supporter), organized violence against the Freedom Riders with local Klan chapters. The pair made plans to bring the Ride to an end in Alabama. They assured Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informer and member of Eastview Klavern #13 (the most violent Klan group in Alabama), that the mob would have fifteen minutes to attack the Freedom Riders without any arrests being made. The plan was to allow an initial assault in Anniston with a final assault taking place in Birmingham.
On May 14, Mother's Day, in Anniston, Alabama, a mob of Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two buses (the Greyhound). The driver tried to leave the station, but was blocked until KKK members slashed its tires. The mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town and then threw a firebomb into it. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, and the riders escaped the bus. The mob beat the riders after they got out. Only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched. The roadside site in Anniston and the downtown Greyhound station were preserved as part of the Freedom Riders National Monument in 2017.
Some injured riders were taken to Anniston Memorial Hospital. That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders, most of whom had been refused care, were removed from the hospital at 2 AM, because the staff feared the mob outside the hospital. The local civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth organized several cars of black citizens to rescue the injured Freedom Riders in defiance of the white supremacists. The black people were under the leadership of Colonel Stone Johnson and were openly armed as they arrived at the hospital, protecting the Freedom Riders from the mob.
When the Trailways bus reached Anniston and pulled in at the terminal an hour after the Greyhound bus was burned, it was boarded by eight Klansmen. They beat the Freedom Riders and left them semi-conscious in the back of the bus.
When the bus arrived in Birmingham, it was attacked by a mob of KKK members aided and abetted by police under the orders of Commissioner Bull Connor. As the riders exited the bus, they were beaten by the mob with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains. Among the attacking Klansmen was Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informant. White Freedom Riders were singled out for especially frenzied beatings; James Peck required more than 50 stitches to the wounds in his head. Peck was taken to Carraway Methodist Medical Center, which refused to treat him; he was later treated at Jefferson Hillman Hospital.
When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Alabama to try to calm the situation.
Despite the violence suffered and the threat of more to come, the Freedom Riders intended to continue their journey. Kennedy had arranged an escort for the Riders in order to get them to Montgomery, Alabama, safely. However, radio reports told of a mob awaiting the riders at the bus terminal, as well as on the route to Montgomery. The Greyhound clerks told the Riders that their drivers were refusing to drive any Freedom Riders anywhere. Recognizing that their efforts had already called national attention to the civil rights cause and wanting to get to the rally in New Orleans, the Riders decided to abandon the rest of the bus ride and fly directly to New Orleans from Birmingham. When they first boarded the plane, all passengers had to exit because of a bomb threat.
Nashville Student Movement continuation
Diane Nash, a Nashville college student who was a leader of the Nashville Student Movement and SNCC, believed that if Southern violence were allowed to halt the Freedom Rides the movement would be set back years. She pushed to find replacements to resume the rides. On May 17, a new set of riders, 10 students from Nashville who were active in the Nashville Student Movement, took a bus to Birmingham, where they were arrested by Bull Connor and jailed.
The students kept their spirits up in jail by singing freedom songs. Out of frustration, Connor drove them back up to the Tennessee line and dropped them off, saying, "I just couldn't stand their singing." They immediately returned to Birmingham.
Mob violence in Montgomery
In answer to SNCC's call, Freedom Riders from across the Eastern US joined John Lewis and Hank Thomas, the two young SNCC members of the original Ride, who had remained in Birmingham. On May 19, they attempted to resume the ride, but, terrified by the howling mob surrounding the bus depot, the drivers refused. Harassed and besieged by the mob, the riders waited all night for a bus.
Under intense public pressure from the Kennedy administration, Greyhound was forced to provide a driver. After direct intervention by Byron White of the Attorney General's office, Alabama Governor John Patterson reluctantly promised to protect the bus from KKK mobs and snipers on the road between Birmingham and Montgomery. On the morning of May 20, the Freedom Ride resumed, with the bus carrying the riders traveling toward Montgomery at 90 miles an hour, protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol.
The Highway Patrol abandoned the bus and riders at the Montgomery city limits. At the Montgomery Greyhound station on South Court Street, a white mob awaited. They beat the Freedom Riders with baseball bats and iron pipes. The local police allowed the beatings to go on uninterrupted. Again, white Freedom Riders were singled out for particularly brutal beatings. Reporters and news photographers were attacked first and their cameras destroyed, but one reporter took a photo later of Jim Zwerg in the hospital, showing how he was beaten and bruised. Seigenthaler, a Justice Department official, was beaten and left unconscious lying in the street. Ambulances refused to take the wounded to the hospital. Local black residents rescued them, and a number of the Freedom Riders were hospitalized.
On the following night, Sunday, May 21, more than 1500 people packed into Reverend Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church to honor the Freedom Riders. Among the speakers were Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had led the 1955–1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Farmer. Outside, a mob of more than 3,000 white people attacked the black attendees, with a handful of the United States Marshals Service protecting the church from assault and fire bombs. With city and state police making no effort to restore order, the civil rights leaders appealed to the President for protection. President Kennedy threatened the governor to intervene with federal troops if he would not protect the people. Governor Patterson forestalled that by finally ordering the Alabama National Guard to disperse the mob, and the Guard reached the church in the early morning.
In a commemorative Op-Ed piece in 2011, Bernard Lafayette remembered the mob breaking windows of the church with rocks and setting off tear gas canisters. He recounted heroic action by King. After learning that black taxi drivers were arming and forming a group to rescue the people inside, he worried that more violence would result. He selected ten volunteers, who promised non-violence, to escort him through the white mob, which parted to let King and his escorts pass as they marched two by two. King went out to the black drivers and asked them to disperse, to prevent more violence. King and his escorts formally made their way back inside the church, unmolested. Lafayette also was interviewed by the BBC in 2011 and told about these events in an episode broadcast on the radio on August 31, 2011, in commemoration of the Freedom Rides. The Alabama National Guard finally arrived in the early morning to disperse the mob and safely escorted all the people from the church. 
The next day, Monday, May 22, more Freedom Riders from CORE and SNCC arrived in Montgomery to continue the rides through the South and replace the wounded riders still in the hospital. Behind the scenes, the Kennedy administration arranged a deal with the governors of Alabama and Mississippi, where the governors agreed that state police and the National Guard would protect the Riders from mob violence. In return, the federal government would not intervene to stop local police from arresting Freedom Riders for violating segregation ordinances when the buses arrived at the depots.
On Wednesday morning, May 24, Freedom Riders boarded buses for the journey to Jackson, Mississippi. Surrounded by Highway Patrol and the National Guard, the buses arrived in Jackson without incident, but the riders were immediately arrested when they tried to use the white-only facilities at the Tri-State Trailways depot. The third bus arrived at the Jackson Greyhound station early on May 28, and its Freedom Riders were arrested.
In Montgomery, the next round of Freedom Riders, including the Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Gaylord Brewster Noyce, and southern ministers Shuttlesworth, Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker, and others were similarly arrested for violating local segregation ordinances.
This established a pattern followed by subsequent Freedom Rides, most of which traveled to Jackson, where the Riders were arrested and jailed. Their strategy became one of trying to fill the jails. Once the Jackson and Hinds County jails were filled to overflowing, the state transferred the Freedom Riders to the infamous Mississippi State Penitentiary (known as Parchman Farm). Abusive treatment there included placement of Riders in the Maximum Security Unit (Death Row), issuance of only underwear, no exercise, and no mail privileges. When the Freedom Riders refused to stop singing freedom songs, prison officials took away their mattresses, sheets, and toothbrushes. More Freedom Riders arrived from across the country, and at one time, more than 300 were held in Parchman Farm.
While in Jackson, Freedom Riders received support from local grassroots civil rights organization Womanpower Unlimited, which raised money and collected toiletries, soap, candy and magazines for the imprisoned protesters. Upon Freedom Riders' release, Womanpower members would provide places for them to bathe while offering them clothes and food. Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland said the Womanpower members "were like angels supplying us with just little simple necessities."
Kennedy urges "cooling off period"
The Kennedys called for a "cooling off period" and condemned the Rides as unpatriotic because they embarrassed the nation on the world stage at the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union criticized the United States for its racism and the attacks on the Riders. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the chief law-enforcement officer of the land, was quoted as saying that he "does not feel that the Department of Justice can side with one group or the other in disputes over Constitutional rights." His comment angered civil rights supporters, who considered the Justice Department duty-bound to enforce Supreme Court rulings and defend citizens exercising their Constitutional rights from mob violence.
Nonetheless, international outrage about the widely covered events and racial violence created pressure on American political leaders. On May 29, 1961, Attorney General Kennedy sent a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) asking it to comply with the bus-desegregation ruling it had issued in November 1955, in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. That ruling had explicitly repudiated the concept of "separate but equal" in the realm of interstate bus travel. Chaired by the South Carolina Democrat J. Monroe Johnson the ICC had failed to implement its own ruling.
CORE, SNCC, and the SCLC rejected any "cooling off period". They formed a Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to keep the Rides rolling through June, July, August, and September. During those months, more than 60 different Freedom Rides criss-crossed the South, most of them converging on Jackson, where every Rider was arrested, more than 300 in total. An unknown number were arrested in other Southern towns. It is estimated that almost 450 people participated in one or more Freedom Rides. About 75% were male, and the same percentage were under the age of 30, with about equal participation from black and white citizens .
During the summer of 1961, Freedom Riders also campaigned against other forms of racial discrimination. They sat together in segregated restaurants, lunch counters and hotels. This was especially effective when they targeted large companies, such as hotel chains. Fearing boycotts in the North, the hotels began to desegregate their businesses.
In mid-June, a group of Freedom Riders had scheduled to end their ride in Tallahassee, Florida, with plans to fly home from the Tallahassee airport. They were provided a police escort to the airport from the city's bus facilities. At the airport, they decided to eat at a restaurant that was marked "For Whites Only". The owners decided to close rather than serve the mixed group of Freedom Riders. Although the restaurant was privately owned, it was leased from the county government. Canceling their plane reservations, the Riders decided to wait until the restaurant re-opened so they could be served. They waited until 11:00 pm that night and returned the following day. During this time, hostile crowds gathered, threatening violence. On June 16, 1961, the Freedom Riders were arrested in Tallahassee for unlawful assembly. That arrest and subsequent trial became known as Dresner v. City of Tallahassee. Convictions of the Riders were appealed to the US Supreme Court in 1963, which refused to hear the case based on technical reasons.
Monroe and Robert F. Williams
In early August, SNCC staff members James Forman and Paul Brooks, with the support of Ella Baker, began planning a Freedom Ride in solidarity with Robert F. Williams. Williams was an extremely militant and controversial NAACP chapter president for Monroe, North Carolina. After making the public statement that he would "meet violence with violence," (since the federal government would not protect his community from racial attacks) he had been suspended by the NAACP national board over the objections of Williams' local membership. Williams continued his work against segregation however, and was facing repeated attempts on his life because of it. Some SNCC staff members sympathized with the local community's proclivity for armed self-defense, although many on the ride to Monroe saw this as an opportunity to prove the superiority of Gandhian nonviolence over the use of force.
The Freedom Riders in Monroe were brutally attacked by white supremacists with the approval of local police. On August 27, James Forman - SNCC's Executive Secretary - was struck unconscious with the butt of a rifle and taken to jail with numerous other demonstrators. Police and white supremacists roamed the town shooting at black civilians, who returned the gunfire. Robert F. Williams fortified the black neighborhood against attack and in the process briefly detained a white couple who had gotten lost there. The police accused Williams of kidnapping and called in the state militia and FBI to arrest him, in spite of the couple being quickly released. Certain he would be lynched, Williams fled and eventually found refuge in Cuba. Movement lawyers, eager to disengage from the situation, successfully urged the Freedom Riders not to practice the normal "jail-no bail" strategy in Monroe. Local officials, also apparently eager to de-escalate, found demonstrators guilty but immediately suspended their sentences. One Freedom Rider however, John Lowry, went on trial for the kidnapping case, along with several associates of Robert F. Williams, including Mae Mallory. Monroe legal defense committees were popular around the country, but ultimately Lowry and Mallory served prison sentences. In 1965, their convictions were vacated due to the exclusion of black citizens from the jury selection.
Resolution and legacy
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By September it had been over three months since the filing of the petition by Robert Kennedy. CORE and SNCC leaders made tentative plans for a mass demonstration known as the "Washington Project". This would mobilize hundreds, perhaps thousands, of nonviolent demonstrators to the capital city to apply pressure on the ICC and the Kennedy administration. The idea was pre-empted when the ICC finally issued the necessary orders just before the end of the month. The new policies went into effect on November 1, 1961, six years after the ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. After the new ICC rule took effect, passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains; "white" and "colored" signs were removed from the terminals; racially segregated drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms serving interstate customers were consolidated; and the lunch counters began serving all customers, regardless of race.
The widespread violence provoked by the Freedom Rides sent shock waves through American society. People worried that the Rides were evoking widespread social disorder and racial divergence, an opinion supported and strengthened in many communities by the press. The press in white communities condemned the direct action approach that CORE was taking, while some of the national press negatively portrayed the Riders as provoking unrest.
At the same time, the Freedom Rides established great credibility with black and white people throughout the United States and inspired many to engage in direct action for civil rights. Perhaps most significantly, the actions of the Freedom Riders from the North, who faced danger on behalf of southern black citizens, impressed and inspired the many black people living in rural areas throughout the South. They formed the backbone of the wider civil rights movement, who engaged in voter registration and other activities. Southern black activists generally organized around their churches, the center of their communities and a base of moral strength.
The Freedom Riders helped inspire participation in other subsequent civil rights campaigns, including voter registration throughout the South, freedom schools, and the Black Power movement. At the time, most black Southerners had been unable to register to vote, due to state constitutions, laws and practices that had effectively disfranchised most of them since the turn of the 20th century. For instance, white administrators supervised reading comprehension and literacy tests that highly educated black people could not pass.
List of Freedom Rides
Precursors to Freedom Rides
|Ride||Date||Carrier||Point of departure||Destination||Ref.||Note|
|Journey of Reconciliation||April 9–23, 1947||Trailways and Greyhound||Washington, D.C.||Washington, D.C.||||[note 1]|
|Little Freedom Ride||April 22, 1961||East St. Louis, Illinois||Sikeston, Missouri||||[note 2]|
Original and subsequent Freedom Rides
- Boynton v. Virginia (1960) decision at a terminal facility only Denotes location a Freedom Rider tested the compliance of the
|Ride||Date||Carrier or terminal||Point of departure||Destination||Ref.||Note|
|Original CORE Freedom Ride||May 4–17, 1961||Trailways||Washington, D.C.||New Orleans, Louisiana||||[note 2]|
|Greyhound||Washington, D.C.||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Nashville Student Movement Freedom Ride||May 17–21, 1961||Birmingham, Alabama||New Orleans, Louisiana||||[note 3]|
|Connecticut Freedom Ride||May 24–25, 1961||Greyhound||Atlanta, Georgia||Montgomery Alabama||||[note 4]|
|Interfaith Freedom Ride||June 13–16, 1961||Greyhound||Washington, D.C.||Tallahassee, Florida||||[note 5]|
|Organized Labor–Professional Freedom Ride||June 13–16, 1961||Washington, D.C.||St. Petersburg, Florida||||[note 6]|
|Missouri to Louisiana CORE Freedom Ride||July 8–15, 1961||St. Louis, Missouri||New Orleans, Louisiana||||[note 7]|
|New Jersey to Arkansas CORE Freedom Ride||July 13–24, 1961||Newark, New Jersey||Little Rock, Arkansas||||[note 8]|
|Los Angeles to Houston Freedom Ride||August 9–11, 1961||Union Railway Station||Los Angeles, California||Houston, Texas||||[note 9]|
|Monroe Freedom Ride||August 17–September 1, 1961||Monroe, North Carolina||||[note 10]|
|Prayer Pilgrimage Freedom Ride||September 13, 1961||Trailways||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 11]|
|Albany Freedom Rides||November 1, 1961||Trailways (terminal only)||Atlanta, Georgia||||[note 12]|
|Trailways||Atlanta, Georgia||Albany, Georgia||||[note 13]|
|November 22, 1961||Trailways (terminal only)||Albany, Georgia||||[note 14]|
|December 10, 1961||Central Georgia Railroad||Atlanta Terminal Station||Albany, Georgia (Union Station)||||[note 15]|
|McComb Freedom Rides||November 29, 1961||Greyhound||New Orleans, Louisiana||McComb, Mississippi||||[note 16]|
|December 1, 1961||Greyhound||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||McComb, Mississippi||||[note 17]|
|December 2, 1961||Greyhound||Jackson, Mississippi||McComb, Mississippi||||[note 18]|
Mississippi Freedom Rides
- Boynton v. Virginia (1960) decision at a terminal facility only Denotes location a Freedom Rider tested the compliance of the
|Date||Carrier or terminal||Point of departure||Destination||Ref.||Note|
|May 24, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 19]|
|Greyhound||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 20]|
|May 28, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 21]|
|Trailways||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 22]|
|May 30, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 23]|
|June 2, 1961||Trailways (#1)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 24]|
|Trailways (#2)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 25]|
|June 6, 1961||Trailways||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 26]|
|June 7, 1961||Trailways||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 27]|
|Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 28]|
|Hawkins Field (airport)||St. Louis, Missouri||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 29]|
|June 8, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 30]|
|Hawkins Field (airport)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 31]|
|June 9, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 32]|
|June 10, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 33]|
|June 11, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 34]|
|June 16, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 35]|
|June 19, 1961||Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 36]|
|June 20, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 37]|
|June 21, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 38]|
|June 23, 1961||Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 39]|
|June 25, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 40]|
|July 2, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 41]|
|July 5, 1961||Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 42]|
|July 6, 1961||Jackson Union Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 43]|
|Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 44]|
|July 7, 1961||Jackson Union Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 45]|
|Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 46]|
|July 9, 1961||Trailways||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 47]|
|Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 48]|
|Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 49]|
|July 15, 1961||Greyhound||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 50]|
|July 16, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 51]|
|July 21, 1961||Hawkins Field (airport terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 52]|
|Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 53]|
|July 23, 1961||Trailways||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 54]|
|July 24, 1961||Hawkins Field (airport)||Montgomery, Alabama||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 55]|
|July 29, 1961||Greyhound||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 56]|
|July 30, 1961||Illinois Central Railroad||New Orleans, Louisiana||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 57]|
|July 31, 1961||Greyhound Bus Station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 58]|
|August 5, 1961||Trailways (bus and terminal)||Nashville, Tennessee||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 59]|
|August 13, 1961||Tri-State Trailways station (terminal only)||Jackson, Mississippi||||[note 60]|
Commemorations and monument
On May 6–16, 2011, 40 college students from across the United States embarked on a bus ride from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, retracing the original route of the Freedom Riders. The 2011 Student Freedom Ride, which was sponsored by PBS and American Experience, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original Freedom Rides. Students met with civil rights leaders along the way and traveled with original Freedom Riders such as Ernest "Rip" Patton, Joan Mulholland, Bob Singleton, Helen Singleton, Jim Zwerg, and Charles Person. On May 16, 2011, PBS aired a documentary called Freedom Riders.
On May 19–21, 2011, the Freedom Rides were commemorated in Montgomery, Alabama, at the new Freedom Ride museum in the old Greyhound Bus terminal, where some of the violence had taken place in 1961. On May 22–26, 2011, the arrival of the Freedom Rides in Jackson, Mississippi was commemorated with a 50th Anniversary Reunion and Conference in the city. During commemorative events in February 2013 in Montgomery, Congressman John Lewis accepted the apologies of Chief Kevin Murphy of the Montgomery Police Department; Murphy gave Lewis his own badge, off his uniform, moving Lewis to tears.
In January, 2017, President Barack Obama declared the Anniston, Alabama bus station the Freedom Riders National Monument.
The Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical is a theater musical retelling the story of the Freedom Rides. The musical was created by Los Angeles screenwriter/director Richard Allen, and San Diego native music artist Taran Gray. Richard and Taran finalized the music in March 2016, and by April of the same year were asked to perform excerpts from their musical as a BETA Event at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF). The FREEDOM RIDERS musical received NYMF's inaugural BETA Event Award, and is scheduled to return to New York, summer of 2017, for an Off-Broadway run as part of NYMF's festival.
Notable Freedom Riders
- Zev Aelony
- James Bevel
- Malcolm Boyd
- Amos C. Brown
- Stokely Carmichael
- William Sloane Coffin
- James Farmer
- Bob Filner
- James Forman
- Mary Hamilton
- William E. Harbour
- Genevieve Hughes
- Bernard Lafayette
- James Lawson
- Frederick Leonard
- John Lewis
- Robert Martinson
- Salynn McCollum
- Charles McDew
- Diane Nash
- Wally Nelson
- James Peck
- Charles Person
- Robert Laughlin Pierson
- John Curtis Raines
- Cordell Reagon
- Meryle Joy Reagon
- Winonah Myers
- Charles Sherrod
- Fred Shuttlesworth
- Carol Ruth Silver
- Helen Singleton
- George Bundy Smith
- Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson
- Peter Sterling
- Daniel N. Stern
- Hank Thomas
- Joan Trumpauer Mulholland
- C. T. Vivian
- Wyatt Tee Walker
- James Zwerg
- Janet Braun-Reinitz
- "He Was My Brother", a Simon & Garfunkel song about the Freedom Riders
- Breach of Peace, 2008 book
- Reverse freedom rides
- Freedom Ride (Australia)
- Included 16 participants - Louis Adams, Dennis Banks, Ernest Bromley, Joseph Felmet, George Houser, Homer A. Jack, Andrew S. Johnson, Conrad Lynn, Wally Nelson, James Peck, Worth Randle, Igal Roodenko, Bayard Rustin, Eugene Stanley, William Worthy and Nathan Wright.
- Included 18 participants - Frances Bergman, Walter Bergman, Albert Bigelow, Ed Blankenheim, Benjamin Elton Cox, James Farmer, Robert G. (Gus) Griffin, Herman K. Harris, Genevieve Hughes, John Lewis, Jimmy McDonald, Ivor (Jerry) Moore, Mae Frances Moultrie, James Peck, Joseph Perkins, Charles Person, Isaac (Ike) Reynolds and Hank Thomas.
- Included 23 participants - William Barbee, James Bevel, Paul Brooks, Catherine Burks-Brooks, Carl Bush, Charles Butler, Joseph Carter, Allen Cason Jr., Lucretia Collins, Rudolph Graham, William E. Harbour, Susan Hermann, Patricia Jenkins, Bernard Lafayette, Frederick Leonard, John Lewis, Salynn McCollum, William B. Mitchell Jr., Etta Simpson, Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, Susan Wilbur, Clarence M. Wright and James Zwerg.
- Included 7 participants - Clyde Carter, William Sloane Coffin, Joseph Charles Jones, John Maguire, Gaylord Noyce, George B. Smith and David E. Swift.
- Included 18 participants - C. Donald Alstork, Robert McAfee Brown, John Collier, Israel S. Dresner, Malcolm Evans, Martin Freedman, Arthur L. Hardge, Wayne "Chris" Clyde Hartmire Jr., George Leake, Allan Levine, Petty McKinney, Walter Plaut, Henry Proctor, Ralph Lord Roy, Perry A. Smith III, Robert J. Stone, A. McRaven (Mack) Warner and Edward White.
- Included 14 participants - Jerald Bobrow, Herbert Callender, Ralph Diamond, Joyce Lebowitz, Sheree Massaquoi, Edward Morton, Gordon Negen, James O'Connor, Francis Randall, Laura Randall, Leslie Smith, Daniel N. Stern, Dupree White and Benny Winston.
- Included 5 participants - Benjamin Elton Cox, Annie Lumpkin, Bliss Anne Malone, John Curtis Raines and Janet Reinitz.
- Included 5 participants - John C. Harvard, Sidney Shanken, Woollcott Smith, Herman (Chaim) S. Stern and Hank Thomas.
- Included 18 participants - Charles Berrard, Marjorie Dunson, Robert Farrell, Herbert Hamilton, Willie Handy, Holly Hogrobrooks, John Hutchins, Eddie Jones, Robert E. Jones, Robert Paul Kaufman, Ellen Kleinman, Pat Kovner, Ronald La Bostrie, Steven McNichols, Marian Moody, Beverly Radcliffe, Steven Sanfield and Joseph McClendon Stevenson.
- Included 19 participants - Robert M. Baum, Edward J. Bromberg, Paul Brooks, Charles Butler, Price Chatham, Paul David Dietrich, James Forman, Richard P. Griswold, Larry Fred Hunter, Edward W. Kale, Frederick Leonard, John Lowry, William Carl Mahoney, Joseph John Michael McDonald, David Kerr Morton, Heath Cliff Rush, Kenneth Martin Shilman, Daniel Ray Thompson and LeRoy Glenn Wright.
- Included 15 participants - Gilbert S. Avery III, Myron B. Bloy Jr., James Pleasant Breeden, John Crocker Jr., James Walker Evans, John Marvin Evans, Quinland Reeves Gordon, James Garrard Jones, John Burnett Morris, Robert Laughlin Pierson, Geoffrey Sedgewick Simpson, Robert Page Taylor, William Adrew Wendt, Vernon P. Woodward and Merrill Orne Young.
- Included 4 participants - James Bevel, James Forman, Joseph Charles Jones and Bernard Lafayette
- Included 3 participants - Salynn McCollum, Cordell Reagon and Charles Sherrod.
- Included 5 participants - Julian Carswell, Bertha Gober, Blanton Hall, Evelyn Toney and Eddie Wilson.
- Included 9 participants - Joan Browning, Norma F. Collins, James Forman, Sandra Cason "Casey" Hayden, Tom Hayden, Per Laursen, Bernard Lee, Lenora Taitt and Robert Zellner.
- Included 5 participants - George Raymond Jr., Doratha Smith, Jerome H. Smith, Alice Thompson and Thomas Valentine.
- Included 6 participants - Willie Bradford, Thomas Peete, George Raymond Jr., Claude Reese, Patricia Tate and Jean Thompson.
- Included 5 participants - James Burnham, Jerome Byrd, MacArthur Cotton, Thomas Gaither and Joe Lewis.
- Included 12 participants - Julia Aaron, Alexander M. Anderson, Harold Andrews, James Bevel, Joseph Carter, Dave Dennis, Paul David Dietrich, Bernard Lafayette, James Lawson, Jean Catherine Thompson, C. T. Vivian, Matthew Walker Jr.
- Included 15 participants - Peter M. Ackerberg, Doris Castle, Lucretia R. Collins, John Lee Copeland, Dion Tyrone Diamond, Grady H. Donald, James Farmer, Frank George Holloway, John Lewis, John H. Moody Jr., Ernest (Rip) Patton Jr., Jerome H. Smith, Clarence Lloyd Thomas, Hank Thomas and LeRoy Glenn Wright.
- Included 9 participants - Catherine Burks-Brooks, William E. Harbour, Frederick Leonard, Lester G. McKinnie, William B. Mitchell Jr., Etta Simpson, Mary J. Smith, Fances L. Wilson and Clarence M. Wright.
- Included 8 participants - Allen Cason Jr., Albert Lee Dunn, David B. Fankhauser, Franklin W. Hunt, Larry Fred Hunter, Pauline Edythe Knight, William Carl Mahoney and Charles David Myers.
- Included 8 participants - James Keet Davis Jr., Glenda Jean Gaither, Paul S. Green, Joe Henry Griffith, Charles Haynie, Robert Lawrence Heller, Sandra Marie Nixon and Peter Sterling.
- Included 6 participants - Charles Butler, Price Chatham, Joseph John Michael McDonald, Meryle Joy Reagon, Kenneth Martin Shilman and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson.
- Included 8 participants - Ralph Fertig, Richard LeRoy Gleason, Jesse J. Harris, Cordell Reagon, Carolyn Yvonne Reed, Felix Jacques Singer, Leslie Word and Elizabeth Porter Wyckoff.
- Included 7 participants - Johnny Frank Ashford, Abraham Bassfordt, James Thomas McDonough, Terry John Sullivan, Shirley Thompson, James Robert Wahlstrom and Ernest Newell Weber.
- Included 6 participants - John Gager, Reginald Malcolm Green, Edward W. Kale, Raymond B. Randolph Jr., Carol Ruth Silver and Obadiah Lee Simms.
- Included 1 participant - Michael Audain.
- Included 3 participants - Gwendolyn C. Jenkins, Robert L. Jenkins and Ralph Edward Washington.
- Included 9 participants - Travis O. Britt, Stokely Carmichael, Gwendolyn T. Greene, Teri Susan Perlman, Jane Ellen Rosett, Jan Leighton Triggs, Joan Harris Trumpauer, Robert Wesby and Helene Dorothy Wilson.
- Included 2 participants - Mark Lane and Percy Sutton.
- Included 5 participants - Margaret Winonah Beamer, Edward J. Bromberg, Patricia Elaine Bryant, Del Greenblatt and Heath Cliff Rush.
- Included 6 participants - Leora Berman, Stephen John Green, Richard P. Giswold, Leon Daniel Horne, Katherine Pleune and Lowell A. Woods Jr.
- Included 7 participants - Zev Aelony, Robert M. Baum, Marvin Allen Davidov, David Kerr Morton, Claire O'Connor, Daniel Ray Thompson and Eugine John Uphoff.
- Included 5 participants - Elizabeth S. Adler, Bob Filner, Elizabeth Slade Hirschfeld, Karen Elizabeth Kytle and Leon N. Rice.
- Included 1 participant - Eugene Levine.
- Included 13 participants - Rita J. Carter, Margaret Ann Kerr, Robert Martinson, Paul Duncan McConnell, Frederick Dean Muntean, Grant Harland Muse Jr., Lestra Alene Peterson, Joan Pleune, Joseph Marion Pratt, Jorgia B. Yvonne Siegel, Buren Lewis Teale, Lawrence Triss Jr. and Thomas Van Roland.
- Included 9 participants - Miriam (Mimi) Feingold, Judith Ann Frieze, Margaret Burr Leonard, Samuel Timothy Nash, Henry Schwarzschild, Leon Felton Smith Jr., Theresa Edwards Walker, Wyatt Tee Walker and Melvin Lorenzo White.
- Included 4 participants - Thomas Madison Armstrong III, Mary Magdalene Harrison, Elnora R. Price and Joseph Lee Ross.
- Included 20 participants - George Marion Blevins, Gloria Leevare-Dee Bouknight, Arthur Brooks Jr., John Luther Dolan, Mary Lucille Hamilton, Gordon Lau Harris, Louise Jean Inghram, Frank Johnson, Marian Alice Kendall, Norma Libson, Claude Albert Liggins, Eddora Mae Manning, Robert William Mason, Fank Arthur Nelson, Janice Louise Rogers, John Copeland Rogers, Marica Arlene Rosenbaum, Wayne Leslie Taylor, Richard Thorne and Claire Drew Toombs.
- Included 5 participants - Barbara Jane Kay, Robert Allen Miller, Michael Leon Pritchard, Peter Harry Stoner and Leotis Thornton.
- Included 9 participants - Robert Earl Bass, Ralph Floyd, Eugene Lee, Marshall Bennett, Miller G. Green Jr., Robert Lee Green, Jesse L. Harris, Percy Lee Johnson and James Wilson Jones.
- Included 6 participants - Frank Caston, Frankie Lee Griffin, Alpha Zara Palmer, West Davis Phillips, Tommie Watts Jr. and Mack Charles Wells.
- Included 6 participants - Alfonzo Denson Jr., Samuel Givens, Landy McNair Jr., Earl Vance Jr., Hezekiah Watkins and Paul Edward Young.
- Included 1 participant - Morton Bruce Slater.
- Included 8 participants - Charles Biggers, Elmer L. Brown, William Walter Hansen Jr., John Lowry, Norma Matzkin, Isaac (Ike) Reynolds Jr., Daniel Stevens and Willie James Thomas.
- Included 8 participants - Daniel E. Bukholder, Lionel Goldbart, Albert Forrest Gordon, Stephen Greenstein, Jeanne H. Herrick, Saul Bernard Manfield, Ralph Robert Rogers and Lula Mae White.
- Included 9 participants - Patricia Dale Baskerville, Larry Bell, Tommie Eldridge Brashear, Edmond Dalbert Jr., Reginald Jackson, Edward B. Johnson, Philip Jonathan Perkins, Roena Rand and John Charles Taylor Jr.
- Included 11 participants - Leo Vone Blue, Mildred Juanita Blue, Fred Douglas Clark, Jessie James Davis, Gainnel Hayes, Andrew Horne Jr., Erma Lee Horne, Delores Williams Lynch, Henry Rosell, Oneal Vance and Joe Watts Jr.
- Included 12 participants - Carroll Gary Barber, Charles Henry Booth, Ray Allen Cooper, Marilyn Irene Eisenberg, Robert Lewis Owens, Jean Estil Kidwell Pestana, David Lering Richards, Rose Schorr Rosenberg, Leon Russ Jr., Leo Vernon Washington, Douglas Albert Williams and Jack Mikhail Wolfson.
- Included 8 participants - James Emerson Dennis, Mary Freelon, Phillip Jay Havey, Rudolph Mitaritonna, Shirley B. Smith, Willard Hooker Svanoe, James Edward Warren and Lewis Richard Zuchman.
- Included 9 participants - James T. Carey, Francis L. Geddes, Joseph Henry Gumbiner, Mary Jorgensen, Russell F. Jorgensen, Allan Levine, Orville B. Luster, Charles G. Sellers and John R. Washington.
- Included 4 participants - Paul Breines, Donna Sage Garde, Joel Ben Greenberg and Ruth Esther Moskowitz.
- Included 7 participants - Albert Roy Huddleston, Margaret Ihra, Candida Lall, Morton G. Linder, Michael Harry Powell, Alexander Weiss and Ralph Alan Williams.
- Included 4 participants - Alphonso Kelly Petway, Kredelle Petway, Matthew Petway and Cecil A. Thomas.
- Included 10 participants - Byron Baer, Hilmar Ehrenfreid Pabel, Catherine Jo Prensky, Sally Jane Rowley, Judith Norene Scroggins, Rick Stanley Sheviakov, Woollcott Smith, Widijonaiko Tjokroadisunatto, Norma Wagner and Ellen Lee Ziskind.
- Included 15 participants - Albert Barough, Winston Fuller, Joseph Edward Gerbac, Michael Grubbs, Alan Kaufman, William Leons, Herbert S. Mann, Max Gregory Pavesic, Philip M. Posner, Helen Singleton, Robert Singleton, Richard C. Steward, Lonnie Thurman, Sam Joe Townsend and Tanya Wren.
- Included 1 participant - James Robert Wahlstrom.
- Included 2 participants - Earl C. Bohannon and Norma Wagner.
- Included 2 participants - George Raymond Jr. and Pauline K. Sims.
- Arsenault 2006, pp. 533–587.
- Upchurch, p. 14.
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- Branch, Taylor (2007). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781416558682.
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- Morgenroth, Florence (1966). Organization and Activities of the American Civil Liberties Union in Miami, 1955–1966 (M.A. thesis). University of Miami. OCLC 15796239.
- Morris, Tiyi (2015). Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-4731-8.
- Tyson, Timothy B. (2001). Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807849231.
- Upchurch, Thomas Adams (2008). Race Relations in the United States, 1960-1980. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313341717.
- Barnes, Catherine A. (1983). Journey from Jim Crow: The Desegregation of Southern Transit. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231053808.
- Catsam, Derek (2009). Freedom's Main Line: The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813173108.
- Etheridge, Eric (2018). Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders. Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 9780826521903.
- Garrow, David J. (1989). Birmingham, Alabama, 1956-1963: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights. Carlson Publisher. ISBN 9780926019041.
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- McWhorter, Diane (2001). Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743217729.
- Niven, David (2003). The Politics of Injustice: The Kennedys, the Freedom Rides, and the Electoral Consequences of a Moral Compromise. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781572332126.
- Ortlepp, Anke (2017). Jim Crow Terminals: The Desegregation of American Airports. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820350943.
Autobiographies and memoirs
- Armstrong, Thomas M.; Bell, Natalie R. (2011). Autobiography of a Freedom Rider: My Life as a Foot Soldier for Civil Rights. Health Communications. ISBN 9780757316036.
- Carmichael, Stokely; Thelwell, Michael (2003). Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684850030.
- Farmer, James (1985). Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement. Texas Christian University Press. ISBN 9780875651880.
- Lewis, John; D'Orso, Michael (1998). Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780156007085.
- Peck, James (1962). Freedom Ride. Simon and Schuster. OCLC 890013.
- Silver, Carol Ruth (2014). Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes from Parchman Prison. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781617038877.
- Zellner, Bob (2011). The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement. NewSouth Books. ISBN 9781603061049.
- Carawan, Guy; Carawan, Candie, eds. (2008). "1961: Freedom Rides". Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs. NewSouth Books. ISBN 9781588381934.
- Hamilton, Mary; Inghram, Louise (1961). Freedom Riders Speak for Themselves. News & Letters. OCLC 12011720.
- Matteson, Noelle (2011). The Freedom Rides and Alabama: A Guide to Key Events and Places, Context, and Impact. NewSouth Books. ISBN 9781603061063.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Freedom Rides.|
- "Freedom Rides: Recollections by David Fankhauser"
- Freedom Rides of 1961 ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
- Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961, National Public Radio
- NEVER-SEEN: MLK & the Freedom Rides - slideshow by Life magazine
- You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow! New Hampshire Public Television/American Public Television documentary of the Journey of Reconciliation
- Eyes on the Prize, Blackside, Inc./PBS documentary of the Civil Rights Movement (Episode 3 is the Freedom Rides)
- "JFK, Freedom Riders, and the Civil Rights Movement" EDSITEment lesson plan
- "The Freedom Riders and the Popular Music of the Civil Rights" EDSITEment lesson plan
- Civil Rights Era Mug Shots, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Alabama Department of Archives & History
- Spears, Ellen (June 29, 2009). "Memorializing the Freedom Riders". Southern Spaces. 2009. doi:10.18737/M7160X.
- Interview with Jim Zwerg, Civil Rights Activist, United States. People's Century television series. PBS and BBC
- The Freedom Riders - slideshow by Life magazine
- FBI files on the Freedom Riders
- Freedom Rider Articles. Online collection of Ride-related articles written by Freedom Riders~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans.
- Curated links to Freedom Riders archival material, Civil Rights Digital Library.
- Civil Rights Activist Bob Zellner interviewed on Conversations from Penn State
- Freedom Riders historical marker in Villa Rica, Georgia
- CORE's Route 40 Project campaign for desegregation of Maryland highway, 1961
- Freedom Riders interviews by American Experience at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting