In 1960, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that racial segregation in restaurants, waiting rooms and bus terminals was unconstitutional. However, this ruling was not being enforced in parts of the South, so Jim Crow laws that allowed for segregated travel remained intact—and remained the norm. Many individuals and organisations sought to end the enforcement of Jim Crow laws. Sit-ins at segregated lunch counters by students and youth throughout the South had already begun. The Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, initiated another tactic called Freedom Rides, whereby individuals rode interstate buses from Washington, D.C. through segregated southern states to New Orleans, Louisiana. Each bus was to have at least one interracial pair sitting in adjoining seats, and at least one Black rider sitting up front in seats typically reserved for white riders. The other participants would sit, scattered throughout the rest of the bus. One rider would abide by segregated travel laws to avoid arrest, and to be able to contact CORE and arrange bail for those who were arrested. The individuals who participated in the tactic, a.k.a. Freedom Riders, came from CORE, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (or SNCC), and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The first Freedom Ride left on the 4th of May, 1961, and provoked violent reactions. Riders were arrested for various offenses, including trespassing, unlawful assembly and violating state and local Jim Crow laws. By the end of the summer, the protests had spread to train stations and airports across the south, and in November, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued rules prohibiting segregated transportation facilities. Jean Denton Thompson participated in the Freedom Rides. KPFA producer Eryn Mathewson gathered Jean’s story about her participation in the Freedom Rides, and her experience as a Freedom Rider and Civil Rights Activist in 1960’s USA. Hear The Story of a Freedom Rider: Jean Denton Thompson.
Hosted by Veronica Faisant.