FREEDOM RIDER: MR. JESSE JAMES DAVIS
FREEDOM RIDERS DOCUMENTARY
FREEDOM RIDER: MR. HANK THOMAS
FREEDOM RIDERS 50TH REUNION!!
Freedom Riders Jimmy McDonald, (left), Hank Thomas and regular passenger
Roberta Holmes sit in front of the burned-out shell of a "Freedom Bus" on May 14, 1961.
In 1961, the Freedom Riders set out for the Deep south to defy Jim Crow laws and call for change. They were met by hatred and violence — and local police often refused to intervene. But the Riders' efforts transformed the civil rights movement.
Raymond Arsenault is the author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. The book details how volunteers — both black and white — traveled to Mississippi and Alabama to fight segregation in transit systems.
Despite being backed by recent federal rulings that it was unconstitutional to segregate bus riders, the Freedom Riders met with obstinate resistance — as in Birmingham and Montgomery, where white supremacists attacked bus depots themselves.
In Freedom Riders, Arsenault details how the first Freedom Rides developed, from the personal level to the legal maneuvering involved. His narrative touches on elements from the jails of Alabama to the Kennedy White House.
Read an excerpt from Freedom Riders:
We had most trouble, it turned into a struggle,
Half way 'cross Alabam,
And that 'hound broke down, and left us all stranded,
In downtown Birmingham.
— Chuck Berry