The group was led by James Farmer, who co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality, or Main. Farmer later taught background at then-Mary Washington College, right until soon prior to his loss of life in 1999.
“And the first quit was about 50 miles south, in Fredericksburg, Virginia,” claimed Williams. “They went inside of the Greyhound bus terminal, in an effort and hard work to combine both equally the lunch counter and the restrooms.”
By acquiring James Peck, a white person, enter a “Colored Only” toilet and purchase at the lunch counter, even though a Black person, Charles Man or woman, applied the whites-only amenities and counter, the Liberty Riders sought to problem regional rules.
“There was no incident, there was no violence” at the Fredericksburg bus station, mentioned Williams. “That did not take place right until they received to Rock Hill, South Carolina.”
Before that, Independence Riders were arrested.
“The 1st arrests came in North Carolina, in Charlotte. Someone obtained into the shoeshine chair and refused to leave, so the cops came and arrested him. And then a different Flexibility Rider sat in the very same chair, and they arrested him.”
In Atlanta, some of the Flexibility Riders split off on to a Trailways bus.
“And then they obtained to Alabama,” reported Williams.
In Anniston, Alabama, a mob of regional Ku Klux Klan associates surrounded the Greyhound bus at the bus station, with some Klan users lying in front of the bus to reduce it from transferring, when others poked holes in the tires.
“They punctured the tires, they broke windows and dented the aspect of the bus, which eventually managed to depart. The mob pursued the bus in cars. A person car got in front of the bus and prevented it from collecting pace,” explained Williams.
Close to 6 miles from the station, the Flexibility Riders’ bus limped to the facet of the highway.
“And the law enforcement gave [the mob] time to encompass the bus, immediately after it pulled about,” reported Williams.
The Greyhound bus was firebombed.
“The bus caught fire, as they were being throwing bricks in there, and Molotov cocktails. They had been terrified for their life — the 13 on the bus were being petrified,” he explained.
With smoke billowing out of the bus, the Liberty Riders experienced to get new air.
“As quickly as they acquired off the bus, they have been viciously attacked by customers of the local Klan chapter,” Williams claimed.
When the Trailways bus arrived an hour later on, Ku Klux Klan users boarded that bus, numerous wielding metal pipes.
Soon after added violence in Birmingham, U.S. Lawyer Standard Robert Kennedy started negotiating with Alabama’s governor, to guarantee a law enforcement escort out of Birmingham.
The Liberty Rides ongoing, with various riders for numerous months. In September 1961, with strain from the John F. Kennedy administration, the Interstate Commerce Fee issued polices prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals.
In 2019, Williams — who grew to become a private buddy of Farmer’s — arranged a journey for UMW and local residents to retrace the Flexibility Riders’ route. As soon as again in Fredericksburg, he and the college labored with metropolis officers to apply for a historic marker from the state’s Department of Historic Sources.
On May well 4 — 60 yrs after the bus’s halt in Fredericksburg — a historic marker will be positioned at the internet site of the now-gone Greyhound station, which has been changed by a hearth station.
Williams will be the grasp of ceremonies, and Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw will proclaim May 4 “Freedom Riders Working day.”
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