This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. The Freedom Rides, which were originally sparked by the incident at Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina, forever changed Mississippi and paved way for a movement that eventually led to huge Civil Rights victories and successes.
Why bus stations?
In 1960, the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation in bus and train stations and airports was illegal.
James Farmer, head of CORE- Congress of Racial Equality, also knew Southern stations were still segregating and that the federal government was making no effort to enforce the law. So he and his colleagues envisioned a demonstration ride through the South by a small group of people, integrating stations along the way as they went, trying to draw some attention to the situation.
Originally, there were 13 riders who started out their journey through the Southern states and eventually ended up in Jackson, MS, where they were all arrested. This, and other incidents that happened along the way, sparked a nationwide series of riders to Jackson, all of whom were arrested.
Total, there were 328 people arrested as Freedom Riders in Jackson between May 24 and September 13, 1961. They came in small groups via bus, train, and airplane, primarily from Montgomery, Nashville, and New Orleans.
Facts about the Riders:
– Half were black, half were white.
– One quarter were women.
– 40% were between the ages of 18 and 21.
– The oldest Rider was 61, the youngest 13.
– By place of birth, the riders came from 39 states and 11 countries.
– 195 Riders were from the Deep South, three of these Riders were white.
– 43 Riders, over 13%, were from Mississippi.
All Riders had one common goal in mind: Change for Equality.
To read more or to find out how the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders is being commemorated, click here.