Statement Commemorating
60th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides

Bob Zellner, May 9, 2021

Commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the arrival of the freedom riders in Montgomery is important because:

By the time the freedom bus arrived in Montgomery, the whole world was watching.

The date was May 20, 1961, when the cold war with the Soviet Union was in full swing.

Russia and China had gleefully featured front page newspaper pictures of the Freedom Bus in Anniston, Alabama on fire.

Ku Klux Klansmen were filmed holding the exit doors shut, trying to kill everyone on the bus.

These dramatic photographs and news articles stood in sharp contrast with U.S. propaganda which was compareing "Godless Communism in Asia" with American Democracy — the land of the free. So killing students in public because they wanted Africa Americans to vote and to be able to ride together on public buses and trains without being killed by racists, did not look good.

The arrival of the freedom bus in Montgomery is important because, after the Freedom Rides, young kids in every southern town where SNCC worked called civil rights organizers "Freedom Riders." They would sing out, "Are you a Freedom Rider?" Our standard answer became, "Yes I'm a Freedom Rider, you want to join us?"

See Freedom Ridesfor background & more information.
See also Freedom Rides for web links.

Copyright © Bob Zellner


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