Freedom Riders' 50th Anniversary
Fifty years ago, today, the very first Freedom Ride headed South from Washington, DC. Though several court cases had deemed segregation on buses to be illegal, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), hadn't enforced the rulings. The Freedom Riders, therefore, set out to challenge segregation by traveling as an interracial group on buses and other forms of public transportation across the South.
Miss Ella Jo Baker, who this very blog is named after, helped to coordinate the rides and guided SNCC members to grow and strengthen as leaders during the Freedom Rides.
A new PBS Documentary and a special episode of Oprah are giving new attention to the historic and brave actions of the Freedom Riders, celebrating their legacy and their activism.
At the Ella Baker Center, we feel a strong connection to the courageous freedom fighters who came before us. The young leaders who made up the Freedom Riders, as well as the other veterans of the civil rights movement, accomplished so much. In the case of the Freedom Rides, it forced the ICC to implement the desegregation of their buses. The riders' actions also brought much-needed publicity to the racism and reality of the Jim Crow South. They also inspired many subsequent civil rights campaigns, including voter registration drives and freedom schools.
For each of these achievements, there were people in motion; that is why they are called movements. The Freedom Riders are an inspirational reminder that people-powered action, driven by hope and the belief that things can and should be better, is how change happens. Let their legacy live long and shine bright!