Civil Rights Movement Photographs
The Freedom Rides


If you miss me at the back of the bus....

Anniston & Birmingham, AL, Mothers Day, 1961



Organized by CORE, two integrated groups of Freedom Riders enter Alabama on May 14, 1961. One bus is ambushed and burned by a racist mob outside of Anniston.


The second bus arrives in Birmingham where another mob brutally assaults the riders.


Students from the Nashville Movement take up the ride.


The Rev Fred Shuttlesworth with Freedom Riders Charles Butler, Catherine Burks, Lucretia Collins, and Salynn McCollum in the "white" Greyhound terminal waiting room.

Charles Butler and John Lewis under arrest at the Birmingham bus depot.

Montgomery, AL


When the buses pull into Montgomery the riders are viciously attacked by yet another waiting mob. Reporters and photographers are also brutally assaulted and their cameras smashed to prevent the rest of America from seeing pictures of the Klan assault on nonviolent young men and women. After the attack, Freedom Rider Jim Zwerg waits for transportation to a hospital (segregation laws prohibit Black taxi drivers from giving rides to whites, and white cabbies refuse to transport Freedom Riders of any race).


The next night Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy lead a mass-meeting in Abernathy's First Baptist Church to honor the riders. As darkness falls, a huge mob of white racists, numbering in the thousands, surrounds the church in a long night of violence and terror. Trapped inside the Church, the Freedom Riders and their supporters wait with steadfast courage for the dawn.

American Nazi Party members in Montgomery, May 23, 1961.



May 24, a bus carrying Freedom Riders departs Montgomery on the way to Mississippi.

Public opinion forces President Kennedy to call out the National Guard to protect the riders.


Nashville Freedom Riders Rip Patton (left) and Bernard LaFayette (aisle) with Jim Lawson seated behind them on the bus headed into Jackson MS with National Guard troops standing guard.


Yale Chaplin William Sloan Coffin, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Bernard Lee at the "white only" lunch counter in the Montgomery Trailways terminal just before they are arrested.


Julia Aarons and David Dennis of CORE on the 1st ride from New Orleans to Jackson.

Jackson, MS


Julia Aaron (left) and unidentified rider arrested in Jackson for violating local segregation laws.
All riders arriving in Jackson are arrested and many are sentenced to Parchman State Prison, where they are beaten and abused.


But more Freedom Riders follow, coming down from the North and rolling in from the West. All are imprisoned. More than 300 are jailed in Jackson alone. Similar arrests occur in other Southern towns. The rides only end when public outcry forces the Kennedy administration to enforce the laws and rulings prohibiting segregation in interstate commerce.

(Note that the map below shows only some of the many Freedom Rides)


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