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Sit In’s And Freedom Rides • Connection • Recall – The Bus Boycott and Little Rock incident had accelerated the Civil Rights movement into the public eye. • Let us quickly recall previous events through photos.


December 5, 1955, Dr. King delivered a speech to a crowd of 5,000 – 15,000 people and declared: On


comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression…I want it to be known – that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination – to gain justice on buses in this city. And we are not wrong… If we are wrong – the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong – God Almighty is wrong…If we are wrongjustice is a lie.”

ď ŽThe

boycott of the bus system continued for over a year as African Americans walked or participated in carpools.

ď ŽIn

December 1956, the United States Supreme Court declared Alabama’s laws requiring segregation on buses to be unconstitutional.

ď ŽMartin

Luther King Jr., E.D. Nixon (in light hat), and other boycott leaders await the first desegregated bus, December 1956.


Montgomery bus boycott proved that the African-American community could unite and protest. It also proved the power of nonviolent resistance. King urged his followers, “Don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them.”


called his nonviolent resistance “soul force,” basing his teachings on several people including Jesus (taught must love enemies), Henry David Thoreau (taught civil disobedience, the refusal to obey an unjust law), A. Philip Randolph (learned organizing demonstrations), and Gandhi (learned to resist oppression without violence).


warned, “We will not hate you, but we cannot…obey your unjust laws…We will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in winning our freedom, we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process.”

ď ŽAfrican

American churches, such as Dexter Baptist, pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., played a key role in the success of the bus boycott.

ď ŽChurches

became a place for forums, planning meetings, and organizing volunteers for civil rights campaigns.

ď ŽIn

1957, King joined with ministers and other civil rights leaders to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

The Big Picture L/o – Students will be aware of how the Sit Ins and Freedom Rides formed part of the Civil Rights Movement ď Ž16

Activation • Although never used to block public streets, sit-ins were an integral part of the non-violent strategy of civil disobedience and mass protests that eventually led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964which ended legallysanctioned racial segregation in the United States. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) conducted sit-ins as early as the 1940s.

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The Sit In’s - Overview •


ď ŽA

sit-in occurred at a whites-only lunch counter in a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, NC.

ď ŽThe

sit-in was initiated by four students who were all members of the NAACP Youth Council.

ď ŽThe

Youth Council was an organization with links to civil rights activists and leaders of earlier sit-ins in Durham, NC, and in Nashville, Tennessee.

ď ŽTelevision

crews filmed the incident and American witnessed racism.

ď ŽIn

the days following reporters captured the scenes of whites beating, jeering, and pouring food over students who refused to use violence.

ď ŽThe

attention the media gave to the Greensboro sit-in sparked more protests in other cities across the South.

ď ŽPolice

were called, prices raised, counter seats were removed, but the civil rights sit-ins continued and spread to the North.

ď ŽPicket

lines were formed by students around national chain stores that kept segregated lunch counters, such as Woolworth's.

ď ŽBy

1960, lunch counters in 48 cities and 11 states had been desegregated.

ď ŽMany

people were beginning to realize that blacks and whites deserved equal treatment.

Members of the Journey of Reconciliation • In early 1947, CORE announced plans to send eight white and eight black men into the upper South to test the Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in interstate travel unconstitutional. • This integrated team of sixteen people set out on the Journey of Reconciliation, a two week pilgrimage through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. • The Journey of Reconciliation achieved a great amount of attention and was the foundation for the many direct action campaigns led by CORE in the future. 39

Freedom Rides • Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia (1960)[1] andMorgan v. Virginia.[2] The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961,[3] and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.[4] • Boynton outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel, but the ICC failed to enforce its own ruling, and thus Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South. • The Freedom Riders set out to challenge this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses. • Most of the subsequent rides were sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), while others belonged to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Freedom Rides followed on the heels of dramatic sit-ins against segregated lunch counters conducted by students and youth throughout the South and boycotts beginning in 1960.


The Freedom Rides 1961 •


BOYNTON v. VIRGINIA • This Supreme Court case overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only." • It held that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal because such segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act. • It held that bus transportation was sufficiently related to interstate commerce to allow the United States Federal government to regulate it to forbid racial discrimination in the industry.


James Farmer • Farmer and several Christian pacifists founded the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942. • The organization's purpose was to apply direct challenges to American racism by using Gandhian tactics of non-violence. • As CORE National Director he helped organize student sit-ins and Freedom Rides in the Deep South. • In 1961, he wrote to President Kennedy about the upcoming Freedom Ride, "designed to forward the completion of integrated bus service and accommodations in the Deep South." 43

The First Weeks of the Freedom Rides

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Anniston, Alabama • In Anniston, Alabama, a white mob awaited the arrival of the first bus bearing the Freedom Riders at the Greyhound station. • They attacked the bus with iron pipes and baseball bats and slashed its tires. • The bus driver drove out of the station, but the punctured tires forced the bus to pull off the road. • The white mob that pursued the bus fire bombed it and held the doors shut preventing riders from exiting the burning bus. • An undercover policeman drew his gun, and forced the doors to be opened. • The mob pulled the Freedom Riders off the bus and beat them with iron pipes.


John Lewis and Jim Zwerg Following Montgomery, Alabama Beating

Montgomery, Alabama Beating • On May 21, 1961, the surviving contingent of Riders headed from Birmingham to Montgomery, protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol. • When they reached the Montgomery city limits, the Highway Patrol abandoned them. • At the bus station was waiting a large white mob that viciously beat them with baseball bats and iron pipes. • The local police allowed the beatings to go on uninterrupted.


Martin Luther King, Jr • Dr. King delivered a statement at a rally to support the Freedom riders on May 21, 1961. • In it, he expressed his support for the Freedom Rides and condemned the violence against the riders. • He acknowledges that the Deep South will not impose limits on itself, that such action must come from outside. • He also reasserts his call for nonviolent actions.


Robert Kennedy • When reports of the bus burning and beating reached Attorney General Robert Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders. • Kennedy then sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Montgomery, Alabama to observe the Freedom Riders' arrival in that city which was to happen shortly. • Seigenthaler was attacked along with the riders upon the bus’ arrival in Montgomery.


David Frankhauser • David Frankhauser was only 19 when he went from Alabama to Ohio to join the Freedom Riders. • He was eventually arrested. • Later in life, Dr. Frankhauser wrote about his experiences as a member of the Freedom Rides.


Demonstration • Page 144 • Complete your own timeline of the Freedom Rides (page 144) • Look at source A (Page 145) • What does this picture tell us about the Freedom Rides of 1961?



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