May 4-8, 1961 — Thirteen Freedom Riders, male and female, black and white, young and old boarded two Greyhound buses in Washington DC, and embarked on a journey to challenge segregated travel facilities throughout the South. Their’s was the first of many “freedom” rides taken by similarly diverse groups of activists, and is now known as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement that continued into the 1960s, and resulted in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act in 1963, and a Voting Rights act in 1964.
Meeting hateful resistance all along the way, the freedom Riders, who spilled much of their blood and shed many tears, are credited as the inspiration to the Civil Rights activists who continued on into the 1960s, and who made significant social progress.
“Eyes On the Prize”
American gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples released We’ll Never Turn Back (w/”Eyes On the Prize”) April 24, 2007. Produced by Ry Cooder, it is a concept album with lyrical themes relating to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. We’ll Never Turn Back received widespread critical acclaim, and was frequently cited as one of the year’s best recordings.
May 4, 1961 — The first Freedom Ride, organized by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), started in Washington DC and was scheduled to reach New Orleans, Louisiana two weeks later.
May 9-13 — Entering the Deep South, the Freedom Rides begin to meet strong resistance. Riders are arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina and attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Reaching Atlanta on May 13, the Riders meet with Martin Luther King Jr.
May 14 — After leaving Georgia, one bus is firebombed outside the small town of Anniston, Alabama. The second bus makes it to Birmingham, only to face a vicious Ku Klux Klan mob aided by the local police. Many Freedom Riders were brutally beaten.
May 15-18 — Forced to complete their journey to New Orleans by plane, under the protection of the Kennedy Administration, CORE Riders decide to end the Freedom Rides. Members of the Nashville Student Movement step in as “fresh troops.”