The Freedom Riders

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by 17CSchreibeck
Last updated 5 years ago

Social Studies
American History

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The Freedom Riders

May 4, 1961

The riders made it to Atlanta with only minor incidents, and their split into two groups for the next bit of their trip. They then headed to Birmingham Alabama. One group was confronted with an angry mob who threw stones at the riders and slashed the bus’s tires. The bus escaped, but when it stopped to have the flat tires fixed, the mob caught up and someone threw a fire bomb inside the bus. The riders barely escaped before the bus burst into flames.

The Freedom Rides left from Washington D.C. on May 4, 1961. Their planned route took them into the Deep South, through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and end in New Orleans, Louisiana. They planned to end their trip on May 31, the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

When the other bus reached Birmingham is was greeted by a mob. The police were not there to protect the riders because of Mother’s Day. The riders were attacked, and one of the riders was crippled for life. May 14 The riders were terrified by the attack and took a flight to New Orleans.

May 14

The Freedom Rider grew quite popular with the media, and ten students decided to finish the Freedom Ride. Eight black, and two white students returned to Birmingham. Robert Kennedy negotiated with the Birmingham police, to insure the riders safe passage from the city, and the Greyhound bus company, to provide a bus for the riders to travel in. The riders were jailed, supposedly for their own safety. The next day, they went on a hunger strike and two days later they were transported to the Tennessee state line and left on the side of a highway. The immediately returned to Birmingham and attempted to purchase bus tickets. The aide to the attorney general, John Siegenthaler made it clear to the Alabama Governor John Patterson that the federal government would protect the riders.

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May 20

May 17

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Selected 13 people, blacks and white to ride buses through the deep South. The white riders rode in the back of the bus, and the black riders rode in the front. Whenever the bus stopped, the blacks attempted to use all the segregated facilities in the stations. The laws recently passed stated that it was their right to use the same facilities as the whites, and they hoped the local racists would be violent towards them, and pressure the Supreme Court to outlaw segregation.

May 14

May 24

September 1961 ' Following Years

On May 22, 27 Freedom Riders left on two buses to Jackson Mississippi. When they reached Mississippi's state line, the highway was lined with the state's national guard. The Kennedy administration promised that no federal troops would be sent to the border as long as the state protected the riders. Upon arrival at the Jackson bus station, the Freedom riders were escorted into the whites only station, and out the other side. They were immediately arrested. The judge in charge of the ruling turned his head and the riders were sentenced to 30 days in state penitentiary.

A group of 21 Freedom Riders left heading to Montgomery on May 20th. The city police were supposed to take over the protection of the riders at the Montgomery city limits. A mob soon emerged from the seemingly abandoned bus terminal, and the riders were attacked. Robert Kennedy was furious that the governor had broken his promise, and ordered 600 federal marshals to an air base outside of Montgomery. Martin Luther King Jr. himself went to Montgomery to address a rally. As he spoke in Montgomery's First Baptist Church, a mob of over 200 angry white protesters fought the marshals. The marshals used tear gas, some of which leaked into the church. Only the local Montogmery police were able to avert a potential crisis.

The Interstate Commerce Comission made a set of rule governing the integration of all interstate bus terminals. The Freedom Rides also spurred African-Americans to vote so they could vote for their freedoms. Juan Williams wrote, "The courage and tenacity of those pioneers had captured the imagination and awe of blacks throughout the Southland."

Freedom Riders On The Bus Holding Protest Signs

A group of Freedom Riders

The Freedom Riders' bus after it was exploded

The Freedom Riders

Mississippi National Gaurd protecting the Freedom Riders Bus on the highway

Without extreme racism in the South, the Freedom Riders would not have made the trip because immediate action was not necessary. Segregated facilities may still be the social norm if not for the Freedom Riders. The Kennedy administration helped the Freedom Riders by protecting them at all costs. If it was not for their intervention, the Freedom Riders may have had more injuries or maybe even casualties.


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