Freedom Riders

John F Kennedy

Definition and Summary of the Freedom Riders
Summary and Definition: The Freedom Riders made their protest on May 4, 1961 when six whites and twelve blacks left Washington, D.C., on two Greyhound buses bound for New Orleans in the south. The purpose was  to test new Interstate Commerce Commission regulations and court orders banning segregation in interstate transportation and establish whether facilities at bus terminals on the journey were integrated or segregated. Most  of the Freedom Riders who set off in the spring of 1961 were volunteers from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and ranged to retired citizens to young students. The Freedom Riders were attacked and greeted with terrifying violence in Alabama and forced to abandon the original Freedom Ride in Montgomery, Alabama. Massive press coverage encouraged hundreds more Freedom Riders to follow their example.

Freedom Riders
John F Kennedy was the 35th American President who served in office from January 20,1961 to November 22, 1963. One of the important events during his presidency was the emergence of the interracial Civil Rights Activists known as the Freedom Riders.


Freedom Riders Facts for kids: The names of the original Freedom Riders May 4, 1961 - May 17, 1961
The 1961 Freedom Riders were inspired by the Journey of Reconciliation, made by civil rights activists in 1947. Of the eighteen original Freedom Riders, two were women, six were white, and twelve were black. The names, residences, ages, race and occupations of the Freedom Riders who traveled from May 4, 1961 - May 17, 1961 were as follows:

Al Bigelow M Cos Cob, Connecticut W 55 Retired Naval Officer
B.Elton Cox M High Point, North Carolina B 29 Minister, NAACP
Charles Person M Atlanta, Georgia B 18 Student at Morehouse College
Ed Blankenheim M Tucson, Arizona W 27 Carpenter
Frances Bergman F Detroit, Michigan W 57 Retired Teacher
Genevieve Hughes F Washington, DC W 28 CORE field secretary
Hank Thomas M St. Augustine, Florida B 19 Student at Howard University
Herman Harris M Englewood, New Jersey B 21 Student at Morris College
Ike Reynolds M Detroit, Michigan B 27 CORE field secretary
Ivor Moore M Bronx, NY B 19 Student at Morris College
James Farmer M New York, NY B 41 National Director of CORE
Jim Peck M New York, NY W 46 Editor at CORE
Jimmy McDonald M New York, NY B 29 CORE volunteer
John Lewis M Troy, Alabama B 21 Student at American Baptist Theological Seminary
Joseph Perkins M Owensboro, Kentucky B 27 CORE field secretary
Mae Frances Moultrie M Sumter, South Carolina B 24 Student at Morris College
Robert Griffin M Tampa, Florida B 20 Student at Johnson C. Smith University
Walter Bergman M Detroit, Michigan W 61 Retired Professor

Freedom Riders May 4, 1961 - May 17, 1961

Freedom Riders Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Freedom Riders.

Freedom Riders Facts for kids

Freedom Riders Facts - 1: In the Southern states the discriminatory Black Codes and segregation policies of the Jim Crow Laws restricted the rights of African Americans, denying the right to vote and travel freely. These laws segregated whites and blacks in transport, rest rooms,  restaurants, education and housing

Freedom Riders Facts - 2: The Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the mid 1950's and early 1960's and people were ready to protest and protect the rights of African American citizens.

Freedom Riders Facts - 3: The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 established the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)  as the first true federal regulatory agency for transport. On November 7, 1955 the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) banned bus segregation in interstate travel in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company legal case.

Freedom Riders Facts - 4: On December 5, 1960, in the legal case of Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that racial segregation in bus terminals was illegal because this type of segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act.

Freedom Riders Facts - 5: The combination of the decisions in the Keys v. Carolina Coach and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), effectively outlawed segregation on interstate buses and at the terminals that serviced the buses.

Freedom Riders Facts - 6: Racial integration of transport became a serious subject for debate in the Civil Rights activists and the decision was made to test and challenge local laws that continued to enforce segregation in seating or the facilities at bus terminals.

Freedom Riders Facts - 7: During the spring of 1961, Civil Rights activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) launched the  Freedom Rides calling for volunteers to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals. The decision was made for Freedom Riders to ride on  Greyhound and Trailways buses from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Freedom Riders Facts - 8: The Freedom Riders wanted to test whether they could sit wherever they wanted, eat in integrated dining rooms and were able to use integrated facilities such as rest rooms.

Freedom Riders Facts - 9: Six white and twelve black Freedom Riders left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961. Two of the riders were women. The oldest was 61 years old and the youngest was eighteen years old.

Freedom Riders Facts - 10: The plan was to ride through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to their final destination of New Orleans, Louisiana. The Freedom Riders knew that it was a dangerous mission.


Freedom Riders Facts for kids

Facts about the Freedom Riders for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Freedom Riders.

Freedom Riders Facts for kids

Freedom Riders Facts - 11: A revival of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had emerged in the 1960's opposition to the Civil Rights movement. The KKK advocated a strong racist and anti-communist policy and had gained many new members in the South who were opposed to racial integration. Members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) often forged alliances with Southern police departments and the officers of governor and were again allowed to operate with impunity.

Freedom Riders Facts - 12: The Freedom Riders passed through Virginia without incident but when they reached  the Carolinas John Lewis, Genevieve Hughes and Al Bigelow were attacked in Rock Hill, SC, and some were arrested in both Winnsboro SC and Charlotte in NC. (John Lewis later led the first Selma March, on March 7, 1965 and became one of the "Big Six" leaders of the Civil Rights Movement). 

Freedom Riders Facts - 13: The Freedom Riders passed through Georgia and the towns of Augusta, Athens and Atlanta without incident and the journey progressed to Alabama.

Freedom Riders Facts - 14: On May 14, 1961, Mother’s Day, the Greyhound Bus carrying Freedom Riders was attacked and fire-bombed by by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) near Anniston, Alabama. SNCC student Hank Thomas was beaten over the head with a baseball bat and others were assaulted.

Freedom Riders Facts - 15: The Trailways bus arrived in Anniston, and the Freedom Riders were attacked by another mob who board the bus. The Trailways bus manages to escape Anniston and continues its journey to Birmingham, Alabama.

Freedom Riders Facts - 16: Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor intended to bring the ride to an end in Alabama and encouraged a KKK mob to attack the Freedom Riders. The mob attacked them with iron pipes, baseball bats and bicycle chains, Jim Peck of CORE needed 53 stitches to his wounds.

Freedom Riders Facts - 17: Eugene “Bull” Connor believed he had achieved his goal. The next destination of the journey was to be Montgomery, Alabama, but Greyhound and Trailways drivers refused to drive any bus carrying Freedom Riders. Attorney General Robert Kennedy called for a “cooling off period” and the original Freedom Ride had to be abandoned on May 17, 1961.

Freedom Riders Facts - 18: Unable to proceed to Montgomery, the CORE members decided to fly to New Orleans to attend a rally and after many delays finally arrived at New Orleans.

Freedom Riders Facts - 19: Photographs and media reports of the journey of the Freedom Riders, the burning bus in Anniston and the mob violence in Birmingham shocked the nation and the rest of the world.

Freedom Riders Facts - 20: Undeterred by the violent events, more Freedom Riders from CORE and SNCC arrived in Montgomery. On May 24, 1961 twelve more Freedom Riders board a Trailways bus bound for Jackson, Mississippi.

Freedom Riders Facts - 21: When the Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson and attempted to use "white-only" lunch counters and restrooms they were immediately arrested for Breach of Peace and Refusal to Obey an Officer

Freedom Riders Facts - 22: CORE, SNCC, and SCLC reject the "cooling off period" and form a Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to organize more rides. The rides continue through the summer of 1961.

Freedom Riders Facts - 23: The subject of racial integration of transport and the Freedom Riders was a matter of serious public and political debate and on September 23, 1961 Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy instructed the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to issue new rules ending discrimination in interstate travel.

Freedom Riders Facts - 24: From November 1, 1961, all interstate buses were required to display a certificate that reading: "Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin, by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission".

Freedom Riders Facts for kids

Freedom Riders - President John F Kennedy Video
The article on the Freedom Riders provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The John F Kennedy video will give you additional important facts and dates his presidency.

The Freedom Riders

● Interesting Facts about Freedom Riders for kids and schools
● Summary of the Freedom Riders in US history
● The Freedom Riders, a major event in US history
● John F Kennedy and the Freedom Riders
● Fast, fun facts about the Freedom Riders
The journey of the original Freedom Riders
● John F Kennedy Presidency and the Freedom Riders for schools, homework, kids and children

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