In early 1960, an interracial activist group led by the executive director of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), James Farmer decided to advance in challenging Jim Crows policy of segregation in the south by organizing freedom rides throughout the region. Basically, freedom rides were mainly a procession of COREs 1946, journey of reconciliation that sought to test the ruling decision established in Morgan v. the Commonwealth of Virginia which had outlawed segregation in interstate buses. While 1946, the journey of reconciliation was unfruitful, for the most part, free rides were to some extent successful. In responding to 1960s Supreme Court ruling in Court’s Boynton v. Virginia decision, On May 4th in 1961, a group of seven African Americans and six Whites left Washington, D.C a in two buses destined for New Orleans.
The freedom riders were convinced that the south would be incited by this exercise and maybe the reactions would revoke the federal government into enforcing Supreme Court’s decision on the Boynton case.
The plan of the freedom riders was to ride through Virginia, through Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and end in Louisiana, New Orleans where they had planned to have a civil rally. The freedom riders deployed a tactic that was to have interracial pairs sit scattered in seats reserved under the segregation system for white consumers and also have the blacks to use facilities designated for the whites and vice versa upon stops. The freedom riders encountered minor trouble in North Carolina and Virginia; however, there was much violent reaction in South Carolina, where some free riders were arrested. Reactions were even more severe in Alabama. On 14th May, one bus in Anniston was burned and the freedom riders were beaten. The free riders in the second bus that was headed for Birmingham were similarly beaten and attacked. In both scenarios, the reaction of the law enforcement was equivocally late and there was questionable collusion in all late responses.
Given the violent reactions, the initial freedom riders were unable to get a bus line that would carry them further, nonetheless, the second group of 10 freedom riders organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from Nashville, picked up on the efforts. Not afraid of initial arrest in Birmingham that had seen them transported back to Nashville, Tennessee. The new group of freedom riders returned to Brigham amid protests and violent outburst. At the height of violence US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, secured security protection from the State Highway Patrol as they traveled through, however, the local police failed in providing protection in Montgomery and once again the freedom riders were beaten up.
There on, police support was provided when 27 more freedom riders continued with the bus rides to Jacksons, Mississippi’s where they were arrested and jailed. On 29th May, Kennedy ordered the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce even strict guidelines. Undeterred, the freedom riders continued to travel in Public transport in the South. Over time, widespread violence and arrests provoked by the Freedom Rides attracted national and international attention and also attracted hundreds of new freedom riders to the cause. Despite every other thing, freedom rides continued over the months. Ultimately, falling under pressure Kennedy’s administration issued regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate buses and terminals. In sum, the Freedom Rides inspired many to engage in civil rights actions. The freedom rides helped inspire the basis of wider civil rights activities like voter registration. Similarly, the Freedom Rides inspired civil rights movements in subsequent campaigns in the North such as the black power movements and freedom schools.