Freedom Rider George Raymond
The goals of the courageous “Freedom Riders,” a collective of Black and white civil rights activists who rode buses into the deep South to protest segregation on bus lines, faced major odds in the early ’60’s. On this day in 1961, 27 riders were arrested amid a warning from then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to consider another option.
The group of riders made their way from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi with measurable support despite efforts by law enforcement to break their ranks. The riders were arrested at the Jackson bus station and detained at Parchman, an infamous maximum-security prison in the city. According to reports, the judge in the matter famously turned his head as the riders offered their defense. Ultimately, the NAACP appealed the convictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and had them all overturned.
Kennedy’s statement carried a sense of foreboding as protesters and counter-protesters alike gathered between Alabama and Mississippi. He noted that racial tensions were high and all of the media fervor about the protests would also attract unwanted attention from bystanders not partial to either cause. In his statement, Kennedy wrote “a mob asks no questions” in reference to the potential for violence that did occur.
Despite the best efforts of whites who resisted the Freedom Riders movement, the Interstate Commerce Commission, with broad support from the administration of President John F. Kennedy, prohibited the segregation of interstate transit terminals in the fall of that year.
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