Freedom Rides:Freedom Rides:
In 1961, many Civil Rights Activists fromIn 1961, many Civil Rights Activists from
the Congress of Racial Equality rodethe Congress of Racial Equality rode
interstate buses into the segregatedinterstate buses into the segregated
southern part of the United States.southern part of the United States.
They wanted toThey wanted to
protest the Unitedprotest the United
States SupremeStates Supreme
Court decision on theCourt decision on the
case ofcase of Boynton v.Boynton v.
Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E) conducting aCongress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E) conducting a
march in Washington D.C in 1960’s.march in Washington D.C in 1960’s.
Boynton v. VirginiaBoynton v. Virginia was a Unitedwas a United
States Supreme Court case aboutStates Supreme Court case about
an African American convicted ofan African American convicted of
trespassing in a “white only”trespassing in a “white only”
restaurant in a public station. Thisrestaurant in a public station. This
case overturned the man'scase overturned the man's
conviction because racialconviction because racial
segregation in public transportationsegregation in public transportation
is unconstitutional and violates theis unconstitutional and violates the
Interstate Commerce Act, whichInterstate Commerce Act, which
outlaws discrimination in interstateoutlaws discrimination in interstate
Boynton v VirginiaBoynton v Virginia led to a movementled to a movement
called the Freedom Rides because of thecalled the Freedom Rides because of the
outlawing of racial segregation in publicoutlawing of racial segregation in public
Stanley Nelson Jr.Stanley Nelson Jr. is an Americanis an American
documentary filmmaker that was alive during thedocumentary filmmaker that was alive during the
Freedom Rides and made a documentary.Freedom Rides and made a documentary.
Nelson feels this isNelson feels this is
an emotional storyan emotional story
about the beginningabout the beginning
of the civil rightsof the civil rights
movement withmovement with
ordinary, white andordinary, white and
black people helpingblack people helping
change this country.change this country.
Stanley Nelson statesStanley Nelson states
“many people know the“many people know the
term “freedom riders” butterm “freedom riders” but
don't know the dramadon't know the drama
involved. Now is theinvolved. Now is the
perfect time to tell the storyperfect time to tell the story
of the Freedom Riders.”of the Freedom Riders.”
Thus, Nelson and his crewThus, Nelson and his crew
begin to make the film andbegin to make the film and
take on a period of historytake on a period of history
usually misunderstood inusually misunderstood in
1961, known as the1961, known as the
Freedom Riders.Freedom Riders.
Nelson’s main message was about the racialNelson’s main message was about the racial
segregation and inequality and how the United Statessegregation and inequality and how the United States
government focused their attention elsewhere.government focused their attention elsewhere.
Nelson describes in 1961, many states were violentlyNelson describes in 1961, many states were violently
enforcing the racial segregation policies, however, theenforcing the racial segregation policies, however, the
federal government and the Kennedy administrationfederal government and the Kennedy administration
continued to focus on matters abroad and take nocontinued to focus on matters abroad and take no
action to stop these policies.action to stop these policies.
Nelson described howNelson described how
President KennedyPresident Kennedy
ordered for a ‘cooling offordered for a ‘cooling off
period’ and said theperiod’ and said the
Freedom Rides areFreedom Rides are
unpatriotic and embarrassunpatriotic and embarrass
the United States. Robertthe United States. Robert
Kennedy was even quotedKennedy was even quoted
saying “the Department ofsaying “the Department of
Justice cannot side withJustice cannot side with
one group or the other inone group or the other in
disputes overdisputes over
Constitutional rights.”Constitutional rights.”
Another message inAnother message in Freedom RidersFreedom Riders is how theis how the
Civil Rights activists are willing to do whatever it takesCivil Rights activists are willing to do whatever it takes
to change the racial segregation policies.to change the racial segregation policies.
The first Freedom RideThe first Freedom Ride
started on May 5, 1961,started on May 5, 1961,
when 13 interracial riderswhen 13 interracial riders
departed fromdeparted from
Washington D.C onWashington D.C on
Greyhound and TrailwayGreyhound and Trailway
buses traveling to Newbuses traveling to New
Orleans, Louisiana.Orleans, Louisiana.
When the bus reachedWhen the bus reached
Rock Hill, South Carolina,Rock Hill, South Carolina,
one of the riders wasone of the riders was
Nelson illustrated how many Riders wereNelson illustrated how many Riders were
fearful but theyfearful but they continuedcontinued their journey.their journey.
When passing through Atlanta, Georgia,When passing through Atlanta, Georgia,
the Greyhound bus was stopped as itthe Greyhound bus was stopped as it
entered Alabama.entered Alabama.
A mob surrounded the bus, the tires wereA mob surrounded the bus, the tires were
slashed, and the bus was set on fire. Theslashed, and the bus was set on fire. The
bus was burned to the ground, but thebus was burned to the ground, but the
group took another bus and continued thegroup took another bus and continued the
In Anniston, AL a violent mob boarded the Trailway busIn Anniston, AL a violent mob boarded the Trailway bus
and beat the African-Americans until they moved to theand beat the African-Americans until they moved to the
back of the bus.back of the bus.
These riders were assaulted, knocked unconsciousThese riders were assaulted, knocked unconscious
and hospitalized. The group gathered to show thatand hospitalized. The group gathered to show that
violence can't stop them and they will do whatever itviolence can't stop them and they will do whatever it
takes to stop the segregation policies in the South.takes to stop the segregation policies in the South.
The prior events inThe prior events in
Anniston led to a majorAnniston led to a major
riot in Montgomery, AL,riot in Montgomery, AL,
when three hundredwhen three hundred
mob membersmob members
gathered and begangathered and began
beating the riders untilbeating the riders until
showed up and helpedshowed up and helped.. James Zwerg was hospitalized after being
beaten for his role in protesting.
Nelson's message of how the riders beingNelson's message of how the riders being
determined is escalated when the riders continuedetermined is escalated when the riders continue
through the riots and eventually were escortedthrough the riots and eventually were escorted
by the United States National Guardsmen.by the United States National Guardsmen.
Over the next severalOver the next several
months, the ridersmonths, the riders
continued to Jacksoncontinued to Jackson
to accomplish theirto accomplish their
goal of desegregatinggoal of desegregating
the facilities.the facilities.
Stanley Nelson spoke before the film andStanley Nelson spoke before the film and
wanted the audience to respond with greatwanted the audience to respond with great
empathy toward the determination that theempathy toward the determination that the
Freedom Riders showed, and anger towardFreedom Riders showed, and anger toward
the white authority with their lack ofthe white authority with their lack of
Governor of AL
Global Impact:Global Impact:
The Freedom Rides surprised theThe Freedom Rides surprised the
American population because peopleAmerican population because people
were becoming worried that the Rideswere becoming worried that the Rides
were evoking widespread socialwere evoking widespread social
disorder, racial problems. However,disorder, racial problems. However,
the Freedom Rider's actions helpedthe Freedom Rider's actions helped
impact the country because theimpact the country because the
authorities reconsidered theauthorities reconsidered the
segregation policies and ultimatelysegregation policies and ultimately
removed them.removed them.
This movement inspired many civil rights campaigns,This movement inspired many civil rights campaigns,
including voter registration, freedom schools, and theincluding voter registration, freedom schools, and the
black power movement that help shape our countryblack power movement that help shape our country
into what it is today.into what it is today.
A Black Power Movement in 1965 Freedom School in 1964 in
Barack Obama’s presidency wouldBarack Obama’s presidency would
have not been possible if it wasn’t forhave not been possible if it wasn’t for
the events that took place in the Souththe events that took place in the South
in the 1960’s.in the 1960’s.