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May 4, 1961: Freedom Rides


An interracial group of activists from CORE attempted to ride Greyhound and Trailways buses from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana, to test the Interstate Commerce Commission's ban on segregated buses and facilities on interstate routes. The activists encountered extreme hostility and among other things, survived a bombing of their bus in Anniston, Alabama, and several beatings in Birmingham and Montgomery. Hattye Gatson, a resident of Pickens, Mississippi, and a voter registration worker in her community, was directly influenced by this group of courageous people. She said that they were the ones who really got her interested in becoming an activist. As she watched television one day, she saw "how people were being treated in Alabama." She told an interviewer that "I was working at a private home during the time and would turn on the TV and see all the riots, and I just couldn't wait to get involved. And I was glad when they came through, because that's what I wanted to do. And that's what I said I wanted to be: a freedom rider."

(It is important to note here that many Mississippians labeled anyone who came to help in their struggle for justice "freedom riders". As a result, some references to "freedom riders" have nothing to do with the famous CORE trip that took place in 1961.)




Parchman inmates hoeing cotton
Long line of inmates hoeing cotton at Parchman Penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. Many of these people were arrested as a result of the Freedom Rides or civil disobedience.

From the Paul B. Johnson Collection, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.