The Freedom Rides Tori Boissonneault

What Were They?

Freedom Rides were when interracial civil rights activist groups were sent by the Congress of Racial Equality to ride interstate buses to try to end segregation in bus facilities. It was also meant to test the enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling of Morgan v. the Commonwealth of Virgina, in which all people, regardless of race, are able to get safely between states.


After the 1960 election of President Kennedy, civil rights activists were increasingly trying to pressure the administration to support the cause and to enforce the existing laws that were meant to be beneficial to African Americans. This was because the Southern states were continuously ignoring the laws and the government was not doing anything to stop it.


Many people were injured during the rides because the buses were often bombed, burned, stoned, or the riders were beaten after stepping off the bus. After many violent encounters, however, the National Guard was finally sent in to provide support after 27 Freedom Riders were arrested and sent to jail. On May 29, Kennedy had had enough ordered the Interstate Commerce Commissin to enforce even stricter guidelines.

How This Relates to the Outcomes of the Civil Rights Movement...

Eventually, these symbolic and clever acts would help lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made segregation illegal in all public facilities, and even banned discrimination in the job industry.

Quotes from the Press

"Alabama calls itself, sumably with pride, the "heart of Dixie" -- which must mean that it cherishes the traditions of the old South, chivalry, hospitality, kindness. But some of its citizens showed precious little understanding of those traditions on Sunday when they burned and stoned two buses, one in Birmingham and the other just outside of Anniston... ...The "Freedom Riders" engaged in no disorderly conduct and did nothing to provoke violence -- save to exercise a constitutional right. The police dispersed the crowds after one of the buses had been destroyed by fire and after several of the passengers had been injured. But no arrests were made... ...The plain fact is that Americans cannot be assured in Alabama of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment..." - Darkest Alabama, Washington Post, May 16, 1961.

Analysis: The author of this article from the Washington Post elucidates his point when he says how the people of the South who tried to burn and stone freedom ride buses were clearly lacking Southern virtue and tradition. It shows how he thinks that the Southerns who did that were in the wrong, opposed to the most commonly thought criminals, the freedom riders. When he mentions the Constitution and the right to freedom of expression, it further shows how he feels that the riders were doing nothing wrong, they were only expressing their beliefs. This is important because this author goes against the majority opinion and is able to directly state how the freedom riders were doing what they felt was right, and why it was okay. It shows how people at this time were able to recognize the hardships of the African Americans and how wrong it could get.

"...The Freedom Riders ought not to be enjoined by the courts from exercising their Constitutional rights. But, as we have urged before, the Freedom Riders should realize they have made their point and voluntarily cease their activities for a period during which the passions aroused by their recent efforts may subside. A similar position on this issue was taken last week by the Southern Regional Council, which is composed of both white and Negro liberals. The Council is entirely correct in advocating that the advantages gained be not pressed too far. The issue of desegregation can ultimately be solved only in the South and primarily by Southerners, white and Negro. Neither violence nor the steadily insistent provocation of violence can bring about the solution..." - Injuction in Alabama, the New York Times, June 4, 1961

Analysis: In this article, one can see that the author was not completely against the freedom riders, because he says in the first sentence that they should not be brought to jail for their actions. However, he is, to a greater extent, more against any more actions that could be taken by the freedom riders, as suggested in the second sentence when he explicitly says that the protests should stop because their point has been made, and they are only provoking violence. This is important because it shows more of what the popular opinion at the time would be towards the riders.

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