This month marks 60 years since 13 Freedom Riders–including a young John Lewis– set out on two buses from Washington, DC to challenge the segregation of public transportation.
In the weeks that followed, the Freedom Riders were threatened, arrested, and attacked by violent mobs throughout the Deep South. They attracted the attention of the nation and the world, inspiring hundreds more riders from across the country to join their movement in Mississippi that summer.
- The goals for the Freedom Riders movement was to challenge state laws that enforced segregation in transportation and call upon the federal government to enforce the Supreme Court Boynton v. Virginia ruling prohibiting the segregation of interstate travel.
- The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and other advocates had organized the rides to build upon recent successful boycotts and sit-ins, such as the Greensboro sit-ins, against segregation throughout the South.
- Despite the brutality they faced, riders committed themselves to nonviolent resistance — with 436 riders participating in more than 60 Freedom Rides from May until November of 1961. Many of whom were student activists, faith leaders, educators and others.
The rides changed the way people traveled and set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This month, we honor the Freedom Riders who took a stand against injustice 60 years ago and hope to continue their efforts by protecting our rights during a time when coordinated efforts are blatantly targeting freedoms of vulnerable groups and Black and Brown communities.
And with the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder upon us this week, we invite everyone to acknowledge the endless injustices faced within these communities, and strive for change in your community by demanding policies that will help build a country that will recognize everyone as equal.