Subversive Historian – 05/20/09

Freedom Riders Attacked

Back in the day on May 20th, 1961, civil rights activists known as “freedom riders” were attacked by a white mob upon arriving in Birmingham, Alabama. Reviving the Congress of Racial Equality’s 1947 “journey of reconciliation,” the “freedom rides” were conceived in 1961 with the newly elected President John F. Kennedy in office. Leaving on bus from Washington D.C. on May 4th, black and white riders planned to arrive in New Orleans on May 17th challenging segregation all along the way but were halted by two instances of mob violence. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee took up the rides as they headed for Montgomery, Alabama. By that time, Attorney General Robert Kennedy pressured the state’s governor to protect the riders, however, when the civil rights activists arrived in the city they were attacked as the guarantee of safety cynically gave way to another violent white mob.

Though the Freedom Riders never made it to New Orleans by bus, their courageous example shines as activists who were down to ‘ride for the cause.’


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