Retracing the Past: 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides

During May of 1961, civil rights activists rode Greyhound buses through the segregated southern US in response to an African American student being denied service in a bus terminal restaurant. View clips below of the rides that men and women of all races took to challenge an end to the Jim Crow era.

(NOTE: Move mouse over clips to preview. Click clip for details.)

The first Freedom Ride began May 4 in Washington, DC. with seven black and six white participants. The rides proceeded through Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi.


When the Greyhound bus arrived in Birmingham, the riders were attacked by a mob of Ku Klux Klan members. As the bus was firebombed, the riders were beaten by baseball bats and iron pipes. Many of the riders were refused treatment at nearby hospitals.


On May 21, the bus reached Montgomery and was again bombarded by Klansmen. To honor the Freedom Riders, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at a church that same day.


The Riders’ ultimate plan was to end with a rally in New Orleans, but their journey sadly ended in Jackson, Mississippi when they were arrested and jailed by Highway Patrol and the National Guard for using white-only facilities in the bus depots.


The rides proved to be the backbone for the civil rights movement and inspired other campaigns, such as freedom schools, voter registration, and the black power movement.


See more news stock footage of the Freedom Rides here


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Tags: Alabama, Birmingham, black power movement, , Freedom Rides, Greyhound, Jim Crow, Ku Klux Klan, Mississippi, Montgomery, , , Washington DC