May 4, 1961 – The Freedom Rides Began
On May 4, 1961, thirteen riders began what became known as the “Freedom Rides” through the south on the interstate bus system. They were led by The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Director James Farmer. The first ride consisted primarily of CORE participants and some from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The thirteen riders were made up of seven black and six white participants who left Washington, DC to ride through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi with the trip ending in New Orleans, Louisiana. The attempt to integrate the segregated bus system encouraged others to begin Freedom Rides throughout the south. The Freedom Ride and the subsequent ones organized by CORE and SNCC were initiated because of the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court rule that segregrated public buses were unconstitutional. The southern states had ignored this ruling with it’s continued historical segregation on bus travel.
The trips often encountered violent attacks from those opposed to integration along with arrests from law enforcement in the south.