Freedom Riders


  • Freedom rides were set up by CORE to test whether the desegregation on public transport was happening/being enforced
  • First Freedom Ride was in May 1961, James Farmer, National Director of CORE and 12 volunteers left Washington DC by bus to travel to New Orleans down south
  • No trouble on first part of journey
  • Changed in Alabama
  • Bus firebombed on Mothers’ Day May 1961
  • As bus burned the mob held the doors shut hoping to burn the riders to death
  • Riders Escaped but were viciously beaten by men armed with clubs, bricks and iron pipes
  • Highway patrol men stopped the riders from being lynched
  • Reached Birmingham, no police protection
  • New President forced to intervene – got a promise from the state senator that there would be no more violence, however the riders were arrested for using a whites-only waiting room
  • FRs continued
  • 27 jailed for 67 days for using whites-only section of bus station
  • Membership of CORE doubled to 52K
  • The Albany Movement 1961-62 – civil rights activists protested including MLK but failed to end segregation in the town
  • KKK attacked the riders
  • Robert Kennedy, Attorney General threatened to send in US Marshalls which stopped most of the violence
  • September: Interstate Commerce Commission issued a regulation saying bus companies couldn’t use bus stations that were run in a segregated way
  • Raised awareness and publicity