Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20, 1961: The Freedom Rider Story

In light of what's been going on in this country, the past couple of years especially, and a highly reported so called populist movement, themselves calling the participants 'teabaggers', but really a very loud and even with some media and political ideology backing a minority of the population, I bring you this in the subject title and below.

It also follows the primary election in which the same, mentioned above, are taking credit for getting an obvious racist nominated to run and represent, as noted in an interview with him on the Rachel Maddow show in which he kept denying he was a racist, and not only of color, he's made past questionable statements and kept dodging the simple questions asked. Earlier, on Olbermann's show Keith mentioned he only mentioned the state he's running to represent only once but mentioned the Tea Party numerous times in his acceptance speech.

May 20, 1961 A mob of 300 white segregationists, with the tacit assent of the local police, attacked a busload of both black and white “Freedom Riders” in Montgomery, Alabama’s bus depot.

Among those beaten was Justice Department official John Seigenthaler who had tried to negotiate their safety. Attention to the violence forced Attorney General Robert Kennedy to send in U.S. Marshals to protect the Riders. They had been seeking to guarantee equal access to interstate transportation by riding the bus but had been met by violence elsewhere in Alabama as well as South Carolina.

Resistance to the Movement Timeline

A "Freedom Bus" in flames, six miles southwest of Anniston, Ala., May 14, 1961. (Birmingham Public Library)

Although slavery was illegal for a long time, it was common in the 1940’s and 1950’s, especially in the southern states, to have Blacks-only and Whites-only restaurants, restrooms, drinking fountains, and seats on buses. In 1946, the Supreme Court ruled that making Blacks sit in the backs of buses traveling from state to state, while white passengers sat in the front, was unconstitutional. In 1947, a group of Blacks and Whites planned a "Journey of Reconciliation" to test the Supreme Court’s ruling. This group rode buses together to see if the new law worked, but was arrested in North Carolina by people who were against Blacks being treated as equals. It was clear that not everyone in the United States was ready for integration in the late 1940’s. Continued

And well into the 60's and beyond, witnessed myself as I left the Navy Bootcamp, in '67, for my first Navy Duty base, Meridian Mississippi. Where if you went into Meridian, or other anywhere off base, you not only saw it those stationed on the base, our black Navy brothers, lived it! It was also right at the time of the start of the trial of the white supremist, in Meridian, in the killing of the three young civil rights workers later becoming the movie "Mississippi Burning"!

Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961

Jim Peck, seated, talks with a Justice Dept. representative and Ben Cox on the "freedom plane" to New Orleans, May 15, 1961. Photo by Theodore Gaffney.

January 12, 2006 In 1961, the Freedom Riders set out for the Deep South to defy Jim Crow laws and call for change. They were met by hatred and violence — and local police often refused to intervene. But the Riders' efforts transformed the civil rights movement.

Raymond Arsenault is the author of "Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice". The book details how volunteers — both black and white — traveled to Mississippi and Alabama to fight segregation in transit systems.

Despite being backed by recent federal rulings that it was unconstitutional to segregate bus riders, the Freedom Riders met with obstinate resistance — as in Birmingham and Montgomery, where white supremacists attacked bus depots themselves.

Ku Klux Klansmen beat black bystander George Webb in the Birmingham Trailways bus station, May 14, 1961. The man with his back to the camera (center right) is FBI undercover agent Gary Thomas Rowe

Read an excerpt from "Freedom Riders:":

Alabama Bound

We had most trouble, it turned into a struggle,

Half way 'cross Alabam,

And that 'hound broke down, and left us all stranded,

In downtown Birmingham.

— Chuck Berry Excerpt Continued

I was still in Meridian when King was assassinated, leaving shortly after for Panama then CI/SERE and in country Vietnam. Where along with many so were our black and yes even hispanic brothers were being killed and maimed in this countries already long running occupation and continued. But not the great majority of the white supremist in the country who back in the states were still discriminating against and physically attacking people of color!

As a facebook friend, and brother vet, placed, after I posted the link to the freedom riders there:

Jim, remember on my bus ride from CT - NY - NC in 1968 on way to Bragg the road signs asking for support of the Klans of America :(

We already have a name for an extremist ideology in the language, thats been with us for more then the past decade. While it's pointed at another people and region of the World some here seem hungry for similar in this country, as seen through their actions and speak. That ideology is labeled the Taliban and the World has been watching and listening to what they seek, not only watching but our militaries have been occupying the country they once ruled for awhile. It's only right we call what's going on here, in a minority of citizens, as the same but add American to the Taliban, for there is really no difference in the speak and the actions, even the violence has been rising, just ask the rest of the World!

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