Hinds – Events

Freedom Rides

Date of Event: May-November 1961

The Freedom Rides began in Washington DC on May 4, 1961, with thirteen Freedom Riders (7 black, 6 white) from CORE who aimed to travel by bus through the South in order to bring attention to the ongoing segregation of public transportation–despite a Supreme Court ruling saying it was illegal. The final destination was to be New Orleans. On the buses, black Freedom Riders would sit in the front and white Freedom Riders would sit in the back. The ride was mostly quiet through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, but things became violent in Alabama and Mississippi. On the way from Atlanta to Birmingham, one of the buses was firebombed outside of Anniston, Alabama. The other bus pulled into Birmingham where the Freedom Riders were met with a white mob and brutally beaten. When the bus company refused to continue driving the Freedom Riders, the original 13 flew to New Orleans for their own safety. On May 20th, 21 new Freedom Riders from SNCC were allowed to continue the ride, supposedly guaranteed their safety by Governor Patterson of Alabama. When they arrived in Montgomery, however, state officials withdrew, and the Freedom Riders were greeted by a white mob again. The Freedom Riders were horribly beaten again. At this point, the Federal Government became involved.

On May 24, twenty-seven Freedom Riders continued the ride from Montgomery to Mississippi. The National Guard protected the buses until they arrived in Jackson, where the Riders were systematically arrested and hauled off once they disembarked the bus. These first Freedom Riders were tried and convicted the next day, then sent to Parchman, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. After this first group, several other Freedom Rides were organized, all converging in Jackson, MS, where the Freedom Riders were arrested. According to Eyes on the Prize, “[M]ore than 300 Freedom Riders traveled through the Deep South in an effort to integrate according to the Supreme Court ruling” (159). They attempted to overfill the prisons with Freedom Riders, and more and more riders were taken to Parchman where they were held in maximum security and kept under horrible conditions in an attempt to break their spirits. Instead, many Freedom Riders emerged more committed to the cause. As a result of the Freedom Rides, the Interstate Commerce Commission created new policies demanding that all public transportation be desegregated, and this went into effect on November 1, 1961.

To explore the University of Mississippi’s Freedom Riders archive of video interviews conducted at the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides in 2001, visit their website at http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/archives/freedom_riders.php.

See also: Former Site of Trailways Busway Station and Parchman.

Videos referring to the Freedom Rides:

The Children Shall Lead documentary focuses on the Freedom Rides and Freedom Riders’ experiences. 

The documentary may also be viewed here.

An album of Freedom Rides video clips and oral histories exists here

Sources:

Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford, MS: Oxford UP, 2006.

Williams, Juan. “Down Freedom’s Main Line.” Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. New York: Penguin, 1987.

Lynch Street Shooting

On May 14, 1970, a protest among Jackson State students erupted on Lynch Street. Just ten days before, four students protesting the Vietnam War were killed in Ohio at Kent State by National Guardsmen. Partially in response to the deaths at Kent State and partially in response to a fallacious rumor that Charles Evers, brother of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, had been killed, students began rioting on Lynch Street. Several reports were made to the police department regarding fires, overturned vehicles, thrown rocks, and gunfire. National Guardsmen and police officials blocked off a section of Lynch Street and several surrounding blocks. After quelling a fire at Stewart Hall, a men’s dormitory, a group of policemen proceeded to the Alexander Center, a women’s dormitory. At Alexander the officers encountered between 75 and 100 protesters and opened fire. The gunshot volley killed Phillip Gibbs, a pre-law major, and James Green, a Jim Hill High School student, and wounded eleven others. No evidence of a sniper was ever found. Some of the chipped concrete is still visible on the west end of Alexander Hall. The Lynch Street shooting was the topic of Congressional probe and received considerable attention from President Nixon’s Commission on Campus Unrest. Today a memorial marker to Phillip L. Gibbs and James Earl Green is in place at the Alexander Center.

Sources:

http://www.may41970.com/Jackson%20State/jackson_state_may_1970.htm

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Bus Sit-In of 1961

At Lamar and Capitol Streets on April 20, 1961, three Jackson State students, George Washington, Doris Bracey, and Walter Jones, and a Campbell College student, Johnny Barbour, Jr. boarded a city bus and sat in the white-only section. When they refused to move to the “colored”section, they were arrested and charged with breach of the peace.

Sources:

“Civil Rights Driving Tour of Hinds County”produced by the Associated Press, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the Mississippi Development Authority (Tourism Division).

Freedom Rides

In the summer of 1961, the Freedom Riders, a group of mostly young people, both black and white, risked their lives to challenge the system of segregation in interstate travel in the South. The purpose of the rides was “to test the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which declared segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional” (CORE, 2006). In 2001, participants gathered in Jackson, MS to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, where a number of oral history interviews were collected. Additional interviews about the events occurred over the following year.

A short documentary on the Freedom Rides: The Children Shall Lead

Interviews: