The 1961 Freedom Rides were a protest against segregation on interstate buses and in terminals in the American South. They began on May 4th and continued throughout the summer. The Freedom Riders, small racially integrated teams, were met with violence in a number of states and they encountered some of the worst violence in Alabama. In Anniston, a bus was attacked by a white mob and firebombed. In Birmingham, Riders were badly beaten. In Montgomery, police stood idle as a mob of more than 200 gathered outside the bus terminal and attacked the Riders, reporters and others—leaving more than twenty seriously injured. Federal marshals were sent to restore order. Four days later the Freedom Riders departed for Jackson, Mississippi, escorted by the National Guard. The direct action led to a September 1961 order by the Interstate Commerce Commission prohibiting segregation in bus transportation and stations nationwide.

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Photos courtesy of: Alamy, Getty Images, University of South Alabama

Encyclopedia of Alabama

Freedom Rides Museum is a historic property of the Alabama Historical Commission.