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Freedom Riders Essay

1464 words - 6 pages

The Freedom Riders were a group of college students and leaders of various racial equality organizations, both blacks and whites, which tested the law of integration for public transportation. The law was instated, but Alabama especially didn’t follow it. The Freedom Riders rode buses into the cities to see if the townspeople accepted or declined the new law. They in turn ended up beating, pummeling, and chasing the riders out of town with the white mobs. The Freedom Riders violently fought the segregation of blacks and whites for public transportation systems, and their victory led to the integration of many other places and the making of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Freedom Riders started their trip from Washington D.C. on May 4th, 1961 and were to end their trip in New Orleans, Louisiana (Cozzens 1). They started off with thirteen original riders, seven of them being Negroes (Winkler 1). One member named James Peck was a CORE member and there from the very beginning. He was there in 1947 participating in the Journey of Reconciliation also (Powledge 254). While the riders were in Anniston, Alabama on their way to Birmingham, a white mob, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, stopped the bus and wouldn’t let the riders off (Powledge 255). The mob slashed the tires, but the bus got away until about six miles down the road. The mob caught up to the bus and surrounded it until Ell Cowling, a police officer, pulled out his gun and badge and the Klansman backed away. Someone from the mob had thrown a flaming device into a bus window and the bus went up in flames (Garrow 2). Two highway patrolmen fired their guns to scare the crowd and make them leave so the passengers could safely get off the bus. Only twelve riders were taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The riders took a second bus, the Trailways, and continued through Anniston. The riders were beaten again by another mob (Powledge 255). The Freedom Riders then proceeded to head down South to Birmingham, Alabama on May 20, 1961, at 8:30 A.M. CST from the Greyhound Bus Station to test the newly instated law involving the integration for public transportation. The spokesman for the group was a twenty-one year old named John Lewis. They were led by police vehicles on the highway and followed by undercover cop cars for protection. When they arrived at 10:23 A.M. CST they were bombarded by a mob of people (Loory 573). A white male named James Peck was beaten unconsciously and needed 56 stitches to close up his head wounds (Powledge 255). Stuart H. Loory, a reporter who trailed the journey of the Freedom Riders’ bus, states in great detail that, “The mob had first pummeled three National Broadcasting Co. newsmen and several other photographers, smashing their equipment. Then it turned to vent its unsatisfied fury on the band of students who stood quietly on the bus platform, apparently not knowing what to do after completing the ride from Birmingham.” The mobsters...

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