Freedom Riders: What Is A Hero?

Civil rights is a long struggle and most often involved challenging authority and facing violence. In 1961 the Supreme court of the US ruled that segregation in Federal facilities is unconstitutional. Groups advocating civil rights tested this ruling by riding in nonsegregated buses up to southern states like Mississippi and Alabama. These interstate buses were legally obliged to follow the supreme court ruling even in places where segregation was still practiced and enforced.

One iconic image of the freedom riders is that of Jim Zwerg.


from Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia.

Freedom riders knew or expected to be stopped or arrested for violating local laws.  What they did not count on was the degree of hate and violence waiting for them in bus stops and roads. The first freedom riders were to arrive in New Orleans May 17th but in May 14th in Birmingham, Alabama a mob attacked the freedom riders.

Freedom riders sat side by side with another person in the bus regardless of the color of their skin and ethnic background. The mob hated the white freedom riders the most and singled them out by beating them with baseball bats and iron pipes. Injured riders were denied medical treatment in local hospitals. Local police and authorities looked the other way and did not stop the violence.


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