Fiftieth Anniversary of Freedom Rides: Making Social Justice

A regular blogger (Meteor Blades) over at has a very interesting and lengthy overview of the famous “freedom rides” that began a half century ago today. It may be hard to believe, especially for the younger generation, that many of their parents and grandparents lived through, and participated in, these critical events of our extraordinarily racist history:

There were only 13 brave hearts when they climbed onto southbound Greyhound and Trailways buses in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago today. But within a couple of months there were hundreds of them, black and white, riding public buses into the jaws of Southern intransigence. They were jeered, threatened, harassed, beaten, jailed and firebombed. Their courage eventually helped crush that unique brand of American apartheid known as Jim Crow. But on that balmy spring day when they embarked for New Orleans, segregation ruled the land through which they were traveling, a forced and illegal separation backed up with billy clubs, tear gas, fire hoses and the fangs of police dogs and policemen.

(Source: Wikipedia)
That is in the totalitarian United States, which is what it certainly was in many areas during the nearly 100 years of Jim Crow segregation, many people–mostly black Americans but also some whites–were brutalized, injured, and killed by violent whites, both private citizens and public officials. It did not matter that the federal courts had declared such discrimination unconstitutional, for many whites in the totalitarian South in 1961 Jim Crow segregation was still very much the law. The blog post concludes thus:

Today, it’s easy enough for anyone to call the Freedom Riders heroes. But they were not viewed that way in their own time, and not only in the land of Jim Crow. The White House was unhappy with them, among other reasons, because of the image of the underside of America they exposed. Local media were predictably terrible in their depiction of these fighters for justice, but the national press presented them as rabble-rousers who were, a mere 100 years after the Civil War began, pushing things too far too fast. That’s always the way oppressed people are viewed, of course, no matter how just their cause, no matter how long they have waited.

And now the collective memory, especially the white mainstream recorded memory, has generally sanitized this era of Jim Crow segregation or suppressed its memory.

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