Sunday, December 30, 2018

Civil Rights Events
Freedom Rides
SNCC to the Rescue
The survivors of the two Freedom Rides that began in Washington, D. C. were scattered about Birmingham.  James Farmer had arrived from the nation’s capitol.  The Riders wanted to continue their journey.  Farmer was apprehensive.  The Greyhound bus company “did not want to risk losing another bus to a bombing, and its drivers, who were all white, did not want to risk their lives” (Cozzens 4).  U. S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent Justice Department aide and native Tennesseean John Seigenthaler to Birmingham to negotiate air transportation of the Riders to New Orleans, the final destination of their journey.  Kennedy wanted the Freedom Rides ended.  Farmer declared the CORE project terminated. 
On the evening of May 15, the CORE Freedom Riders finally arrive in New Orleans aboard an airplane arranged for by John Seigenthaler ….On the airport tarmac, they are met by a crowd of white police officers in riot gear who shout racial epithets at the Riders as they make their way to the terminal and a small, welcoming group of CORE volunteers (Journey 1).
The decision to end the ride frustrated student activists, such as Diane Nash, who argued in a phone conversation with Farmer: “We can’t let them stop us with violence. If we do, the movement is dead.” Under the auspices and organizational support of SNCC, the Freedom Rides would resume out of Nashville.  SNCC mentors were wary of this decision, including King, who had declined to join the rides when asked by Nash and Rodney Powell.  Farmer continued to express his reservations, questioning whether continuing the trip was “suicide” ((Freedom Stanford 4).
Diane Nash recognized “that if the Freedom Ride was ended right then after all that violence, southern white racists would think that they could stop a project by inflicting enough violence on it … and we wouldn’t have been able to have any kind of movement for voting rights, for buses, public accommodations or anything after that, without getting a lot of people killed first.”  Robert Kennedy instructed Seigenthaler to speak directly with Nash to get her to change her mind (Morgan 2).
Seigenthaler recalled their telephone conversation.
I felt my voice go up another decibel and another and soon I was shouting, ‘Young woman, do you understand what you are doing? You’re gonna get somebody . . . Do you understand you’re gonna get somebody killed?’ And there’s a pause, and she said, ‘Sir, you should know, we all signed our last wills and testaments last night. . . . We know someone will be killed. But we cannot let violence overcome non-violence.’ That’s virtually a direct quote of the words that came out of that child’s mouth. Here I am an official of the United States government, representing the president and the attorney general, talking to a student at Fisk University. And she in a very quiet but strong way gave me a lecture (Lifson 4).
Jim Zwerg, whose subsequent Freedom Ride participation would make him famous, recalled the following.
Well, we got word on the CORE Freedom Ride, and we knew that John Lewis, a member of our organization, was going to be involved in it. We got word of the burning in Aniston... we had a meeting long into the night as soon as we heard about it. The feeling was that if we let those perpetrators of violence believe that people would stop if they were violent enough, then we would take serious steps backwards. Right away the feeling was that we needed to ride. We called Dr. King, we called James Farmer. There was an awareness that our phones were being tapped, so the feeling was that they knew what we were about to do. Our plan was different from CORE's. Whereas they chartered their buses, we were just going to get tickets and get on the bus. We felt that was even more important -- to buy a ticket just like any other traveler. We weren't getting a special bus, we were just going to get on the bus.
It was decided that we would send twelve people. I was one of 18 that volunteered to go. I've been asked why I volunteered to go... I would have to say, at that moment, it wasn't even a question. It was the right thing for me to do. I never second-guessed it (Simkin 3-4).
Zwerg was drawn to the Freedom Rides after he was assigned a black roommate while attending Beloit College in Wisconsin. He grew to admire his roommate and was shocked to see how the young man was treated by whites when they went out in public together. So he volunteered to be an exchange student at Fisk University in Nashville, an all-black college, for one semester. He wanted to know how it felt to be a minority.
Zwerg had gone to a city that had become a launching pad for the civil rights movement. He was swept up in the group of Nashville college students who were initiating sit-ins and Freedom Rides. He was awed by their commitment (Blake 5).
It was the dance craze “The Twist” that ushered Jim Zwerg of Gallup, N.M., into the civil rights movement.  At a party while attending Fisk University I was showing them what a poor twist dancer I was,” he said. “We were having such a good time and I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got time, why don’t we take in a movie this afternoon?’ ” That was when he learned that blacks and whites could not attend a movie together in Nashville. His involvement in efforts to desegregate local movie theaters led to his participation in the ride (Colvin 9).
Ten volunteers left Nashville for Birmingham May 17 on the 5:15 a.m. Greyhound bus; thirteen more got on a second bus the next day. Interviewed in 1995, Zwerg described the ride from Nashville to Birmingham and his subsequent incarceration.
We just got the tickets and got on the bus. I was going to sit in the front of the bus with Paul Brooks. [22, from East St. Louis, student at American Baptist Theological Seminary, would-be editor of Mississippi Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi, 1962–1963]  Paul sat by the window; I sat by the aisle. The rest of the blacks and one white girl, Celine McMullen, were going to sit in the back.
It was an uneventful ride until we got to the Birmingham city limits. We were pulled over by the police... They came on the bus and said, "This is a Freedom Rider bus, who's on here from Nashville? And the bus driver pointed to Paul and myself. They came up and really started badgering Paul, you know, "Get up... why aren't you in the back of the bus?" And he said he was very comfortable where he was. So they placed him under arrest. And they asked me to move so they could get to him... and I said, "I'm very comfortable where I am too."
We were both placed under arrest, taken off the bus, seated in the squad car for I don' t know how long. Finally they took us to Birmingham Jail and fingerprinted us. They put me in solitary for a little while. Then they put me in with a fellow who was a felon. I mean, I'm in my suit and tie and I've got my pocket bible with me. I think he thought I was some clergyman making calls. Ultimately they threw me in a drunk tank, with about twenty guys in various states of inebriation, and announced in no uncertain terms that I was a ******-lover for the Freedom Riders. Here he is, boys, have at him! I didn't know what was going to happen and I kind of said, "How do you guys feel about this? Do you know what they're talking about?" And they started asking me some questions.
One of the things we agreed on is that if you were jailed, number one, you go on a hunger strike, because in our minds we were jailed illegally. You don't cop a plea, you don't pay the bail and jump. You stay. But here I was. One single white guy. And I didn't know what had happened to Paul. I didn't know what had happened to the rest of the people on the bus. I began to see the state that some of drunks were in, and I tried to get some towels and clean up the guys who were sick. I just got talking to some of them and none of them ever laid a hand on me. Basically, we talked about what I believed and what they believed.
I discovered that since the South was predominately Baptist, Catholics were kind of looked down on at the time. Surprisingly, 19 of the 20 guys in the drunk tank were Catholics! So we kind of had something more in common than they realized. (Simkin
The other Riders were placed under “protective custody.”   “Music was the way we communicated in jail.  … ‘Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.’  I sang it for my cellmates and they liked it. So I got probably ten of these guys singing with me. They had taken all the rest of the people on the bus into protective custody, and I had heard them singing. Now they could hear this group singing, and know I was okay.”
We still had to go to mess even though you didn't eat. One day a fellow came in who was quite sick and I smuggled a sandwich back to the cell for him. I didn't know that act was punishable by three months in jail. But by giving him a sandwich -- suddenly I was a good guy and nobody was going to lay a hand on me. So the two and a half days that we were in jail were fine. We got to know each other. We talked. When I was in court I was really pleased that a number of these guys came over to me and said, "Jim, we really don't agree with you, but we wish you all the best" (Simkin 6-10).
Seven Freedom Riders who had been arrested the previous day were transported from the Birmingham jail north to the Tennessee border.  Early in the morning of May 18, Bull Connor and other police officers drove the Riders under cover of darkness to Ardmore, Alabama., near the Alabama/Tennessee border.  
Birmingham, AL native, 21-year-old Catherine Burks was a student at Tennessee State University when she volunteered for the Nashville Movement Freedom Ride. On May 18, she bantered with the ultra-segregationist Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor as he drove the Nashville riders from jail back to the Tennessee state line.
 In Freedom Riders, Burks says she borrowed a line from the Westerns of the day, telling Connor, "We'll see you back in Birmingham by high noon” (Meet 2).
Left on the side of the road, the Riders were told to make their way back to Nashville.  The Riders found refuge in the home of an elderly black couple.  From Nashville, Diane Nash made arrangements for a car to transport the Riders back to Birmingham the following day.
Federal intervention began to take place behind the scenes as Attorney General Robert Kennedy called the Greyhound Company and demanded that it find a driver.  Seeking to diffuse the dangerous situation, John Seigenthaler, a Department of Justice representative accompanying the freedom riders, met with a reluctant Alabama Governor John Patterson.  Seigenthaler’s maneuver resulted in the bus’s departure for Montgomery with a full police escort the next morning (Freedom Stanford 7).
Works cited:
Blake, John.  “Shocking photo created a hero, but not to his family.”  CNN.  Web.
Colvin, Rhonda.  As Trump attacks John Lewis, here’s how freedom riders broke the chains of segregation.”  The Washington Post.  January 15, 2017.  Web.
Cozzens, Lisa.   “Freedom Rides.” Web.
“Freedom Rides.”  Stanford: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.  Web.
“The Journey to Freedom.”  Web.
Lifson, Amy.  “Freedom Riders.”  Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  May/June 2011.  Web.
“Meet the Players: Freedom Riders.”  American Experience.  Web.
Morgan, Thad.  “How Freedom Rider Diane Nash Risked Her Life to Desegregate the South.”  History.  March 8, 2018.  Web.

Simkin, John.  “Freedom Riders.”  Spartacus Educational.  August 2014.  Web.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Civil Rights Events
Freedom Rides
Trailways Bus to Birmingham
James Farmer grew up in Marshall, Texas, where his father, James L. Farmer, Sr. was a professor at the historically black Wiley College. Farmer devoted his career to civil rights and social justice causes, working for the NAACP and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), CORE's parent organization, prior to his February 1961 election as director of CORE. 
In early 1961 CORE was less well known than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Coalition (SCLC) or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Farmer envisioned the ride as a way to vault CORE and its philosophy of nonviolent direct action to prominence on the national stage, with attendant opportunities for policy-making and fundraising.
Returning to Washington, D.C. from Atlanta, GA on the morning of May 14 to attend his father's funeral, Farmer was haunted by guilt.  Later, he would relate his emotions.  "There was, of course, the incomparable sorrow and pain," he said. "But frankly, there was also a sense of reprieve, for which I hated myself. Like everyone else, I was afraid of what lay in store for us in Alabama, and now that I was to be spared participation in it, I was relieved, which embarrassed me to tears" (Meet) 5).
The man who replaced Farmer in Atlanta was James Peck, the only activist among the Freedom Riders to have participated in the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation.  Born into the family of a wealthy clothing wholesaler in 1914, Peck was a social outsider at Choate, an elite Connecticut prep school, in part because his family had only recently converted from Judaism to Episcopalianism. At Harvard he quickly gained a reputation as a campus radical, shocking his classmates by bringing a black date to the freshman dance. Peck dropped out after the end of his freshman year, spending several years as an expatriate in Europe and working as a merchant seaman. Returning to the United States in 1940, Peck devoted himself to organizing work and journalism on behalf of pacifist and social justice causes. He spent almost three years in federal prison during World War II as a conscientious objector.
 After his release from prison in 1945, he rededicated himself to pacifism and militant trade unionism. In the late 1940s, Peck became increasingly involved in issues of racial justice, joining the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) as a volunteer (Meet 7).
Waiting in line at the Trailways bus station in Atlanta to purchase their tickets, Peck and the other Riders noticed that several of the regular passengers that had also been standing in the line left after they had been spoken to by a group of white men. Afterward, these rough-looking white men – mostly in their twenties and thirties – boarded the bus.  The Riders followed, scattered themselves throughout the seats.  They were Walter and Frances Bergman, white, 61 and 58 respectively; Jim Peck, white, 46; Charles Person, black, 18, student at Morehouse College; Herman Harris, black, 21, student at Morris College; Ivor Moore, black, 19, student at Morris College; and Ike Reynolds, black, 27, a CORE field secretary.  Simeon Booker, Washington bureau chief of Jet Magazine, and Ted Gaffney, Jet Magazine photographer, were seated in the rear of the bus.
Soon after the bus had left the Atlanta terminal, the rough-looking white men – Klansmen – began harassing the black Riders.  "You niggers will be taken care of once you get in Alabama," one of the Klansmen threatened.  The comments intensified, once the bus passed into Alabama (Gross/Arsenault 12-13). 
“Kids knew something was going to happen to them, in most cases it was not going to be good,” Charles Person would remark 56 years later (Colvin 3).
The bus arrived at the Anniston Trailways station approximately an hour after the other Freedom Riders bus had pulled into the Greyhound station.  The waiting room was eerily quiet.  Several whites looked away as the Riders, white and black, approached the lunch counter. They purchased sandwiches, then returned to the bus.  Waiting for the bus to leave, they heard an ambulance siren.  The bus driver, John Olan Patterson, after talking to several Anniston police officers, leaped up the steps. To the occupants of the bus he announced: "We have received word that a bus has been burned to the ground and passengers are being carried to the hospital by the carloads.  A mob is waiting for our bus and will do the same to us unless we get these niggers off the front seats."
One of the Riders told Patterson that they were interstate passengers, that they had the right to sit wherever they wanted.  Patterson exited the bus without uttering a word.  One of eight tough, beefy men that had entered the bus behind Patterson answered.  "Niggers get back. You ain't up north. You're in Alabama, and niggers ain't nothing here."  He then lunged toward Person, punched him in the face. A second Klansman then punched Harris, who was sitting next to Person in the front section of the bus. Both non-violent black Riders refused to fight back.  They were dragged into the aisle, struck with fists, and repeatedly kicked.  Peck and Walter Bergman rushed forward from the back of the bus. “Can we talk about this?” Peck said.  One of the Klansmen struck Peck, sent him reeling across two rows of seats.  Bergman was then struck and fell to the floor.  Blood spurted from their faces.  The enraged Klansmen continued their assaults.  A pair of Klansmen lifted Peck's head, others punched him senseless.  Even though Bergman was unconscious, one Klansman kept stomping on his chest (Gross/Arsenault 14).
Behind them, Bergman's wife, Frances, 58, heard the sound of human flesh being brutally beaten for the first time in her life. Frances pleaded with the men to stop. She said later, "I had never before experienced the feeling of people all around hating me so... I kept thinking,‘How could these things be happening in 1961?'"
A reporter on the scene wrote: "Bergman was battered into semi-consciousness and as he lay in the aisle, one of the whites jumped up and down on his chest.... Peck's face and head bled profusely, making the aisle a slippery, bloody path" (Bergman 1).  
The Klansman ignored her plea, called her a "nigger lover."  However, another Klansman, seeing that Bergman was about to be killed, interceded.  "Don't kill him," he said authoritatively (Gross/Arsenault 15).
Interviewed by Eyes on the Prize years later, Peck recalled the following:
Walter Bergman and I were sitting the back seat so we decided to go up front and intercept, with our bodies.  We got clobbered on the head.  I didn't get it so bad. But Bergman got it so bad that he later had a stroke and has been paralyzed ever since.  As, he has been in a wheelchair ever since.  And so, Walter and I are both suing the F.B.I., Bergman for a million dollars and me for a half a million dollars (Interview 3).
Several Klansmen dragged Person and Harris, both semi-conscious, to the back of the bus.  They draped the two black men over the passengers sitting in the backseat.  They did the same with Peck and Bergman.  Content with what they had accomplished, the Klansmen sat in the middle of the bus.  A black woman who was not a Freedom Rider begged to be allowed to exit the bus.  "Shut up, you black bitch," one of Klansmen answered. "Ain't nobody but whites sitting up here. And them nigger lovers . . . can just sit back there with their nigger friends."
The bus driver, Patterson, returned with a police officer.  Satisfied with what he saw, the officer addressed the Klansmen.  "Don't worry about no lawsuits. I ain't seen a thing."  He  left the bus.  Knowing that a mob was waiting on the main road to Birmingham, the driver used back roads heading west.  The Klansmen did not object.  The Freedom Riders were puzzled.  They didn’t know that the Klansmen were protecting them for a welcoming party that was gathering in downtown Birmingham (Gross/Arsenault 15-16). 
They also did not know that Birmingham Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Conner had agreed to keep his police away from the Trailways station for 15 minutes to give local whites and members of the Klan time to beat up the arriving Freedom Riders.  Connor had reportedly cut a deal with the KKK giving them 15 minutes to “burn, bomb, kill, maim, I don’t give a god-damn what you do” (Doyle 6).
During the next two hours the Klansmen continued their intimidation.  One man brandished a pistol, a second man displayed his steel pipe, three others blocked access to the middle and front sections of the bus.  Jet Magazine journalist Simeon Booker recalled that one of the sentries was "a pop-eyed fellow who kept taunting: 'Just tell Bobby [Kennedy] and we'll do him in, too.'"  One of the Klansmen approached Booker ominously.  Booker gave the man a copy of Jet featuring an advance story on CORE's sponsorship of the Freedom Ride.  The article was passed from Klansman to Klansman. "I'd like to choke all of them," one of the thugs said.  Several others reiterated that the Riders were going to get what was coming to them when they reached Birmingham.  Reaching the outskirts of the city, Peck and the other injured Riders had regained consciousness; but since the Klansmen were not allowing any of them to leave their seats or communicate, Peck could not attempt to prepare them for the horror of what most assuredly waited.
Peck and the other Trailways Riders had no detailed knowledge of what had happened to the Greyhound Riders in Anniston. They thought they were prepared for the worst, but were not.  They had no knowledge of how far Birmingham's extreme segregationists would go to preserve their way of life.  In Birmingham, collaboration between the Ku Klux Klan and law enforcement officials was absolute. The special agents in the Birmingham FBI field office, and their superiors in Washington, knew what was going to happen.  They could have warned the Freedom Riders but did not.
Worse, FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe actively ensured in Birmingham that the Trailways Riders would be pummeled.  The plan agreed to between Klansmen and law enforcement had been to attack first the occupants of the Greyhound bus when it arrived at the Greyhound station.  News of the Anniston bombing did not reach Birmingham until midafternoon, minutes before the arrival of the Trailways bus.  Apprised by police headquarters, Rowe alerted the Klansmen waiting near the Greyhound station that the second bus of Freedom Riders was about to arrive at the Trailways station, three blocks away.  Years later Rowe recounted the frantic dash across downtown Birmingham: "We made an astounding sight . . . men running and walking down the streets of Birmingham on Sunday afternoon carrying chains, sticks, and clubs. Everything was deserted; no police officers were to be seen except one on a street corner. He stepped off and let us go by, and we barged into the bus station and took it over like an army of occupation. There were Klansmen in the waiting room, in the rest rooms, in the parking area."
Police dispatchers had cleared the area.  For the next fifteen minutes there would be no police presence at the Trailways station, except for two plainclothes detectives in the crowd there to monitor what occurred and make sure that the Klansmen left the station before the police was subsequently dispatched (Gross/ Arsenault 16-18).
Interviewed by Eyes on the Prize, James Peck recalled: When we arrived in… Birmingham, … we saw along the sidewalk … about… twenty men with pipes.  We saw no cop in sight.  And now I'll tell you what, how I remember the date.  The next day, Bull Connor, the notorious police chief was asked why there were no police on hand.  He said, he replied, it was Mother's Day and they were all visiting their mothers.  Uh, well we got out of the bus and Charles Person, the black student from Atlanta and I, had been designated to try to enter the lunch counter.  So we… of course we didn't [get] there (Interview 5).
Why had Charles Person, the eighteen-year-old black Morehouse College student from Georgia, chosen to be there?
The Russians had launched Sputnik, demonstrating a technological and scientific supremacy over the United States, and Person, of Atlanta, was ready to answer the call for more American students to become scientists. Accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he thought he would also apply to nearby Georgia Tech, which was cheaper. But he couldn’t get in there; the university was not integrated. And that’s what galvanized him.
“When you do all the things your parents ask you to do, you’re a pretty good student and you’re denied, it’s hard for a child or a teenager to understand,” he said. He joined sit-ins in Atlanta and later was chosen for the rides.
“Change always begins with the young. As you get older you can rationalize things and can kind of live with them,” Person said. “But as a child or young person, you don’t have that rationalization, and you just want to see things change” (Colvin 5).
When the bus pulled into the Trailways terminal, the Klansmen on board rushed down the aisle to be near the front door.  One man shouted: "You damn Communists, why don't you go back to Russia? You're a shame to the white race!"  They exited down the steps and quickly disappeared into the crowd.  Peck and the other Freedom Riders, peering at the crowd, saw no weapons.  They filed off the bus onto the unloading platform to retrieve their luggage.  Several rough-looking men were standing a few feet away giving no indication of impending violence.  Peck and Person walked toward the white waiting room. In his 1962 memoir, Peck recalled: “I did not want to put Person in a position of being forced to proceed if he thought the situation was too dangerous," but "when I looked at him, he responded by saying simply, 'Let's go.'"  Person knew the Deep South; he had been jailed for sixteen days for participating in the Atlanta sit-ins; hours earlier he had been beaten up.  Despite his and Peck’s past experiences, neither man was sufficiently prepared to anticipate what was about to occur.
A Klansmen pointed to the cuts on Peck's face and the caked blood on his shirt and shouted that Person, walking in front of Peck, had attacked a white man.  Peck responded, tried to explain that Person had not attacked him, added: "You'll have to kill me before you hurt him." This blatant breach of racial solidarity only served to incite the crowd of Klansmen blocking their path.  An enraged Klansman pushed Person toward the colored waiting room.  Person recovered, proceeded toward the white lunch counter, was stopped by a second Klansman who shoved him up against a concrete wall.  Another segregationist, National States Rights Party (NSRP) leader Edward Fields pointed at Peck, yelled: "Get that son of a bitch."  Several burly Klansmen pummeled Person with their fists, bloodied his face and mouth, dropped him to his knees.  Peck rushed to help Person to his feet.  Several Klansmen pushed both men into a dimly lit corridor that led to a loading platform.  A dozen whites, armed with pipes or oversized key rings, pounced. Person escaped into the street.  Boarding a city bus, he made his way to Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth's parsonage (Gross/Arsenault 18-19).
Person says he knows of only one photograph that survived that melee: “It’s a picture of me. You’ll see a guy in a blazer with a pipe. We figure he’s the one that gave the most damaging blow,” he said. “He’s the only one who had a weapon that could make my skull pop open the way it did.”
In late 2016, in the middle of a conversation with a relative, Person suddenly passed out -- Collateral damage, almost 56 years later.  There’s that lingering damage — a CT scan found that there’s still damage to his skull, “which was kind of disturbing to me because I thought that was past me,” he said — but there is also lingering hope. He would like to have a cup of coffee with the person who attacked him in Birmingham. No one was charged.
“There’s no resentment,” Person said. He simply wants to know why. “I don’t have time to be hating anyone because I’ve adopted nonviolence as a way of life, not just a tactic” (Colvin  6).
Meanwhile, Peck took the worse of the attack.  I was unconscious, I'd say, within a minute. Uh… I woke up, I came to in an alley way.  Nobody was there.  A big pool of blood.  I looked at that pool of blood, I said, I wonder whether I'm going to live or die.  But I was too tired to care.  I lay down again.  Finally I came too again, and I looked and a white G.I. who had come up and said, you look in a bad way.  Do you need help?  And I looked the other way and [Walter] Bergman was coming so I said, no my friend is coming, he'll help me out. So, uh, Bergman took me in a cab to Shuttesworth's home, and when Shuttlesworth saw me, he said, man you need to go to a hospital. And so he called the ambulance and they took me to the hospital and … they took me to the hospital and put fifty-three stitches into my head (Interview 6). 
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth … would later say, “His head was split down to the skull. Somebody had cracked him with a lead pipe. Peck was a bloody mess. . . .” It took more than an hour for Shuttlesworth to find an ambulance willing to take Peck to the all-white Carraway Methodist Hospital. Once there, staff refused to treat him. Only at Jefferson Hillman Hospital did Peck finally receive treatment, including some 53 stitches for his head wounds (Doyle 7).
The attacks had been moved to the back corridor to avoid reporters and news photographers stationed at the white waiting room.  However, several newsmen, including national CBS News correspondent Howard K. Smith, witnessed at least part of the attack.  
Smith had been working on a television documentary investigating allegations of lawlessness and racial intimidation in the Southern city. Smith, a Southerner himself from Louisiana, was trying to determine if the claims he and his network were hearing about were exaggerated or true. 
On the night of May 13, Smith [had] received a phone call tipping him off that the downtown bus station was the place to be the next day “if he wanted to see some real action.” Smith thus witnessed the May 14 “Mother’s Day” riot at the Birmingham Trailways Bus Station, as a vicious mob of Klansmen attacked the Freedom Riders and innocent bystanders alike with pipes and baseball bats. After the riot, Smith helped badly injured Riders Jim Peck and Walter Bergman to hail a cab. He also found three other injured black men after the melee, one of whom was Ike Reynolds. These men had agreed to do on camera interviews which Smith conducted with the men and was hopeful of airing that evening on CBS-TV. But “signal difficulties” from the local TV station – WAPI – prevented that from happening, though Smith suspected that the local owner there had vetoed such a broadcast.
Smith did deliver news accounts of the bus station melee over the CBS radio network that went out nationally. He would make a series of live radio updates from his hotel room that day. “The riots have not been spontaneous outbursts of anger,” he reported in one broadcast, “but carefully planned and susceptible to having been easily prevented or stopped had there been a wish to do so.” In another he explained: “One passenger was knocked down at my feet by 12 of the hoodlums, and his face was beaten and kicked until it was a bloody pulp.”[i.e., the Jim Peck beating].  Smith reported the facts of the incident for CBS. “When the bus arrived,” he explained in one report, “the toughs grabbed the passengers into alleys and corridors, pounding them with pipes, with key rings, and with fists,” But he was outraged by what he had witnessed, and stated at one point that the “laws of the land and purposes of the nation badly need a basic restatement.” Smith at the time also did a Sunday radio commentary, during which he was more direct, “The script almost wrote itself,” he would later recall. “I had the strange, disembodied sense of being forced by conscience to write what I knew would be unacceptable.” In his commentary, Smith laid the blame squarely on Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor, whose officers had looked the other way during the attack. During that commentary Smith also stated that the “rule of barbarism in Alabama” must bow to the “rule of law and order – and Justice – in America(Doyle 8-9).   
The other Riders had sought refuge.  Ivor Moore, 19, and Herman Harris, 21, both of them black, somehow lost themselves in the crowd before the assaults started.  Ordered to by her husband, Frances Bergman boarded a city bus just after their arrival.  Walter, woozy, blood dried on his clothing, followed Peck and Person into the white waiting room. 
Having witnessed Peck and Person’s beatings, he turned about hoping to find a policeman.  He, too, was knocked to the floor by a raging Klansman.  Jet Magazine journalist Simeon Booker came upon him crawling on his hands and knees.  Booker withdrew to the street, where he found a black cabdriver who was willing to transport him and photographer Ted Gaffney to safety.
Several white men kicked and stomped Ike Reynolds, 27, before dumping his semiconscious body into a curbside trash bin.  
The mob also attacked bystanders that it misidentified as Freedom Riders.  A Klansman named L. B. Earle had come out of the men's room at the wrong time.  Earle suffered several deep head gashes and was taken to a hospital. A second victim was twenty-nine-year-old black laborer George Webb, who was attacked when he entered the baggage room with his fiancée, Mary Spicer, who had been on a Trailways bus that had arrived from Atlanta.  Spicer had been unaware of the melee inside the station until she and Webb were set upon by pipe-wielding Klansmen. Undercover FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe, told Spicer: "Get the hell out of here," whereupon she fled into the street.  Rowe and three others, including an NSRP member, pummeled Webb, who fought back but succumbed after several other thugs surrounded him.  Dozens of bystanders watched, some yelling, "Kill the nigger."  One of the plainclothes detectives on the scene, Red Self, told Rowe: "Get the boys out of here.  I'm ready to give the signal for the police to move in."  When the police did arrive, most of the rioters had left.
Several thugs, however, continued their attack on Web.  A news photographer from the Birmingham Post-Herald, Tommy Langston, snapped a picture of Rowe and the other Klansmen.  The attackers, abandoning Webb, chased after Langston.  One man smashed the camera to the ground.  Rowe and others kicked and punched, threatened to beat him with the pipes and baseball bats they had used on Webb.  Meanwhile, Webb ran into the loading area, and was captured by different Klansmen.  With the police arriving Webb and Langston receiving several parting licks.  Bleeding profusely, Webb managed to find the car in which his fiancée and his aunt were waiting.  Langston staggered down the street to the Post-Herald building, and collapsed into the arms of a fellow employee. Later, another Post-Herald photographer returned to the terminal and recovered Langston's broken camera.  The roll of film inside it was undamaged.
A grisly picture of the Webb beating appeared on the front page of the Post-Herald the next morning.  It was one of the few pieces of documentary evidence that survived the riot.  By Monday, May 15th, photographs of the burning “Freedom Bus” in Anniston as well as images of the Birmingham mob scene were reprinted in newspapers across the country (Gross/Arsenault 19-22).
According to historian Raymond Arsenault, author of the 2006 book, Freedom Riders, “[Howard] Smith’s remarkable broadcast opened the floodgates of public reaction. By early Sunday evening, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of Americans were aware of the violence that had descended upon Alabama only a few hours before.” At that point, few people had heard of CORE, and fewer still knew what the term ‘Freedom Rider’ meant. But with reports like the one Smith made [and newspaper photographs and articles reprinted in local newspapers], more and more of the general population would soon understand what was taking place in the southern part of their country (Doyle 10).
Works cited:
Bergman, Gerald.  “Walter Gerald Bergman's Freedom Ride
and Brutal Government Violence.”  Investigator 143.  March 2012.  Web.
Colvin, Rhonda.  As Trump attacks John Lewis, here’s how freedom riders broke the chains of segregation.”  The Washington Post.  January 15, 2017.  Web.
Doyle, Jack.  ““Buses Are A’Comin’- Freedom Riders: 1961.”  June 24, 2014.  Web.
Gross, Terry.  “Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961,” containing excerpts from Raymond Arsenault’s Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.  NPR.  Web.
“Interview with James Peck.”  Eyes on the Prize.  Washington University Digital Gateway Texts.  Web.
“Meet the Players: Freedom Riders.”  American Experience.  Web.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Civil Rights Events
Freedom Rides
Greyhound Bus -- Anniston
Following the momentum of student-led sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennesssee in early 1960, an interracial group of activists, led by Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Executive Director James Farmer, decided to continue to challenge Jim Crow segregation in the South by organizing “freedom rides” through the region.  They used as their model CORE’s 1946 “Journey of Reconciliation” where an interracial group rode interstate buses to test the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision in Morgan v. the Commonwealth of Virginia which outlawed segregation in interstate travel. White southern segregationists resisted CORE’s efforts. When most of the demonstrators were arrested in North Carolina, the police effectively aborted the Journey of Reconciliation.
Recalling that failed effort 15 years earlier, James Farmer organized a new generation of black and white activists to travel on interstate buses to test the 1960 United States Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia which reiterated the earlier ruling prohibiting racial segregation in interstate transportation (Mack 1). 
"So that everything would be open and above board, I sent letters to the
President of the United States, President Kennedy; to the Attorney General,
Robert Kennedy; the Director of the FBI, Mr. Hoover; the Chairman of the
Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulated interstate travel; to the
President of Greyhound Corporation; and the President of Trailways Corporation.
And I must say we got replies from none of those letters,” Farmer would state later (Freedom Quotes 1).
John F. Kennedy had been elected president, in large part due to widespread support among blacks who believed that Kennedy was more sympathetic to the civil rights movement than his opponent, Richard Nixon. Once in office, however, Kennedy proved less committed to the movement than he had appeared during the campaign. To test the president's commitment to civil rights, CORE would send two interracial groups on chartered buses into the deep South. The whites would sit in the back and the blacks in the front. At rest stops, the whites would go into blacks-only areas and vice versa. "This was not civil disobedience, really," explained … Farmer, "because we [were] merely doing what the Supreme Court said we had a right to do." But the Freedom Riders expected to meet resistance. "We felt we could count on the racists of the South to create a crisis so that the federal government would be compelled to enforce the law," said Farmer. "When we began the ride I think all of us were prepared for as much violence as could be thrown at us. We were prepared for the possibility of death" (Cozzens 1).
Half of the Freedom Riders would travel on a Greyhound bus and the other half on a Trailways bus.  Their ultimate destination was New Orleans, Louisiana. 
Prior to the 1960 decision, two students, John Lewis and Bernard Lafayette, integrated their bus ride home from college in Nashville, Tennessee, by sitting at the front of a bus and refusing to move. After this first ride, they saw CORE’s announcement recruiting volunteers to participate in a Freedom Ride, a longer bus trip through the South to test the enforcement of Boynton. Lafayette’s parents would not permit him to participate, but Lewis joined 12 other activists to form an interracial group that underwent extensive training in nonviolent direct action before launching the ride (Freedom Stanford 1).
“One of the most remarkable things about the Freedom Rides is that …there was not a single incident of breaking the discipline,” Raymond Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, said.  “It’s hard to think of anything more striking in American history than that.”
Even seemingly minor details were not overlooked. For the day of the rides, a dress code was implemented: women in dresses, skirts, and the men in sport coats. “They wanted to look like they had just come out of church or Sunday school,” Arsenault said (Colvin 1).
The Freedom Riders left Washington DC on May 4, 1961. It was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17, the seventh anniversary of the Brown v Board of Education decision. 
The first significant confrontation with segregationists occurred in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Joseph Perkins, twenty-seven year-old CORE Field Secretary, was arrested for trespassing for attempting to have his shoes shined at a whites-only shoe stand.   Perkins refused to post bail and spent two nights (May 8 and 9) in jail. On May 10, Judge Howard B. Arbuckle found him innocent of the trespassing charge based on the precedent set in Boyton v. Virginia.  Perkins would rejoin the riders May 11.
On May 10 several white men attacked a group of Freedom Riders at the Greyhound bus terminal in Rock Hill, South Carolina, as they attempted to enter the whites-only waiting room. John Lewis, Al Bigelow and Genevieve Hughes sustain injuries.  Two men set upon Lewis, battered his face and kicked him in the ribs.  The attack was broken up by local police. 
Lewis received then a telegram inviting him to Philadelphia for an interview for a position with the Peace Corps. He decided to go, intending to rejoin the Freedom Riders in Birmingham. 
The Freedom Riders arrived in Atlanta on May 13 and attended a reception hosted by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They wanted King to join them on the buses, to become a Freedom Rider himself. King passed on a warning that the Klan had "quite a welcome" prepared for the Riders in Alabama.  He urged them to reconsider traveling through the Deep South.  He whispered prophetically to Jet Magazine reporter Simeon Booker, who was covering the story, “You will never make it through Alabama” (Freedom Stannford 2).  Despite King’s warning, the CORE Freedom Riders left Atlanta on May 14, bound for Alabama.
Informed that his father had died unexpectedly, James Farmer needed to return to Washington, D.C. to attend his father’s funeral.  James Peck replaced Farmer as leader of the perilous project.  Peck phoned Fred Shuttlesworth, the pastor of Birmingham's Bethel Baptist Church and the leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, to give him the exact arrival times of the two Freedom Buses.  Shuttlesworth told Peck that Birmingham was alive with rumors that a white mob planned to confront the Riders at the downtown bus stations.  Peck calmly told his riders about Shuttlesworth’s warning.  He also related a warning he had received about potential difficulties that might arise at Anniston, a rest stop on the bus route to Birmingham.  To allay fears, he stated he had no reason to believe the Riders would encounter serious trouble prior to their arrival in downtown Birmingham.  The four-hour ride would give them considerable time to prepare an effective nonviolent response to the waiting mob, should such an eventuality exist.
The Greyhound Bus
The two busses carrying the riders left Atlanta an hour apart. The Greyhound group, with Joe Perkins in charge, left first at 11:00 A.M. The bus was more than half empty. Fourteen passengers were on board: five regular passengers, seven Freedom Riders, and two journalists, Charlotte Devree and Moses Newson.  The riders were Genevieve Hughes, white, 28, CORE field secretary;  Al Bigelow, white, 55, retired naval officer; Hank Thomas, black, 19, Howard University student; Jimmy McDonald, black, 29, CORE volunteer; Mae Frances Moultrie, black,  24, Morris College student; Joe Perkins, black, 27, CORE field secretary; and Ed Blankenheim, white, 27, a carpenter.  Three of the regular passengers were Roy Robinson, the manager of the Atlanta Greyhound station, and two undercover plainclothes agents of the Alabama Highway Patrol: Eli Cowling and Harry Sims.  Following the orders of Floyd Mann, the director of the Alabama Highway Patrol, Cowling carried a hidden microphone to be used to eavesdrop on the Riders. Unsure of the Freedom Ride's itinerary, Mann and his boss, Governor John Patterson, wanted to know what the Riders planned.
Just south of Anniston, the driver of a northbound Greyhound motioned to the driver of the Freedom Riders' bus, O. T. Jones, to pull over to the side of the road. A white man then ran across the road and yelled to Jones through the window: "There's an angry and unruly crowd gathered at Anniston. There's a rumor that some people on this bus are going to stage a sit-in. The terminal has been closed. Be careful." With this message the Riders' worst fears seemed to be confirmed, but Joe Perkins — hoping that the warning was a bluff, or at least an exaggeration — urged the driver to keep going. A minute or two later, as the bus passed the city limits, several of the Riders couldn't help but notice that Anniston's sidewalks were lined with people, an unusual sight on a Sunday afternoon in a Deep South town. "It seemed that everyone in the town was out to greet us," White Rider Genevieve Hughes, 28-year-old CORE Field Secretary, later commented.
Nineteen-year-old Hank Thomas, who had joined the 1961 CORE Freedom Ride at the last minute after his Howard University roommate John Moody had dropped out with a bad case of the flu, remembered the strange feeling that he and the other Riders felt as the bus turned into the station parking lot. The station was locked shut.  There was utter silence.  Then, suddenly, a screaming mob, led by Anniston Klan leader William Chappell, surrounded the bus. Thomas thought he heard the driver, O. T. Jones say, "Well, boys, here they are.  I brought you some niggers and nigger-lovers."
An eighteen-year-old Klansman and ex-convict, Roger Couch, stretched himself out in front of the bus.  The others, approximately fifty in number, carrying metal pipes, clubs, and chains — milled about, many screaming: "Dirty Communists!  "Sieg heil!" No policemen were present, even though the manager of the Anniston Greyhound station, had warned local officials earlier that a potentially dangerous mob had assembled.
After the driver opened the door, Cowling and Sims hurried to the front and managed to close the door.  Frenzied attackers began to smash windows, dent the sides of the bus, and slash tires.  Genevieve Hughes watched a man walk by the side of the bus, saw him slip a pistol from his pocket, watched him stare at her for several minutes.  She heard the sound of shattering glass.  She shouted, "Duck, down everyone," thinking that a bullet had struck one of the windows.  It had been a rock.  A second man cracked the window above her seat with brass knuckles.  Joe Perkins's window was also cracked.  The assault continued for almost twenty minutes.
The Anniston police finally arrived.  The officers examined the broken windows and slashed tires but made no attempt to arrest anybody.  Eventually, the officers cleared a path in the crowd and motioned for the bus to leave the parking lot.
A police car led the Greyhound to the city limits and then turned back, leaving the bus to the mercy of the pursuing mob. A long line of cars and pickup trucks, plus one car carrying a news reporter and a photographer, followed.  Two of the cars, ahead of the bus, forced it to slow down.  The thirty or forty cars and trucks were occupied mostly by Klansmen, none wearing hoods or robes. Some had just come from church, wearing coats and ties and polished shoes.  Some had children with them.
Two tires now flat, six miles southwest of Anniston, in front of the Forsyth and Son grocery store, the driver pulled over to the side of the road.  Roy Robinson and the driver ran into the grocery store hoping to call a local garage that might have replacement tires.  Back in the bus, Eli Cowling had retrieved his revolver from the baggage compartment.  A teenage boy smashed a side window with a crowbar.  A group of men and boys rocked the bus trying to turn it over on its side.  A second group attempted to enter through the front door. Brandishing his gun, Cowling blocked them, retreated, locked the door behind him.  For the next twenty minutes Klansmen pounded on the bus demanding that the Freedom Riders come out.  Two highway patrolmen arrived.  Neither made an effort to disperse the crowd, Cowling, Harry Sims, and the Riders stayed inside.
One members of the mob, Cecil "Goober" Lewallyn, tossed a flaming bundle of rags through a broken window.  The bundle exploded; dark gray smoke spread throughout the bus.  Genevieve Hughes, seated only a few feet away from the explosion, thought first that the bomb-thrower had thrown a smoke bomb.  The smoke got blacker.  The flames started to engulf several of the seats. Crouching in the middle of the bus, she screamed: "Is there any air up front?"  No one answered. "Oh, my God, they're going to burn us up!" she yelled.  She found an open window six rows from the front, thrusted out her head, and saw the outstretched necks of Jimmy McDonald and Charlotte Devree.  Seconds later the three Riders squeezed through their opened windows.  Choking from the smoke and fumes, they staggered across the road.  They were afraid that the other passengers were trapped inside, but then they saw that several passengers had escaped through the front door on the other side.
Members of the mob were pressing against the door screaming, "Burn them alive" and "Fry the goddamn niggers."  An exploding fuel tank persuaded the mob that the whole bus would within seconds explode.  The frightened mob retreated.  Cowling pried open the door.  The choking occupants escaped.  Hank Thomas was the first Rider to exit the front of the bus.  A white man rushed toward him, asked: "Are you all okay?" Before Thomas could answer, the man struck Thomas’s head with a baseball bat. Thomas fell to the ground and remained barely conscious while the rest of the gasping Riders collapsed on the grass.
Several white families had gathered in front of the grocery store.  Twelve-year-old Janie Miller gave choking victims water, filling and refilling a five-gallon bucket, ignoring the Klansmen’s insults (Gross/ Arsenault 3- 7)
“It was the worst suffering I’d ever heard,” Miller would recall in the PBS /American Experience film, Freedom Riders. “I walked right out into the middle of that crowd. I picked me out one person. I washed her face. I held her, I gave her water to drink, and soon as I thought she was gonna be okay, I got up and picked out somebody else.” For daring to help the injured riders, she and her family were later ostracized by the community and could no longer live in the county (Doyle 7).
Twenty-four-year-old Morris College student Mae Frances Moultrie was the only African-American CORE female on the bus.  She had joined the Ride on May 11th in Sumter, SC.   Moultrie was so badly overcome by the heat and smoke, she could not remember "if I walked or crawled off the bus" (Meet 3).  
Cowling's pistol, the heat of the fire, and the acrid fumes from the burning seats kept the mob away.  A second fuel tank explosion drove them farther back.  Two warning shots by the highway patrolmen on the scene persuaded the Klansmen to slip away.  Minutes passed.  Cowling, Sims, and the patrolmen stood guard over the Riders, lying and sitting yards away from the shell of the bus.  No one in a position of authority had attempted to make an arrest.  Nobody had recorded the license numbers of the Klansmen's cars and pickup trucks.  No one attempted to call an ambulance. Finally, a white couple who lived close by permitted Genevieve Hughes to make a call.  Nobody answered.  The couple drove Hughes to the hospital.  One of the state troopers called for an ambulance. Its driver refused to carry any of the black Riders. Already loaded, refusing to leave behind their black friends, the white Riders began to exit.  Cowling spoke sternly to the driver.  He relented.  All who needed to be transported were driven to Anniston Memorial Hospital.
Genevieve Hughes discovered that only a nurse was at the hospital.  The nurse gave her pure oxygen to breathe.  It burned her throat, did not relieve her coughing.  She was burning hot.  Her clothes were a wet mess. After awhile Ed Blankenheim and Bert Bigelow were brought in.  Laying on their beds, they continued to cough.  Eventually a woman doctor arrived, having taken several minutes to reference smoke poisoning.  A Negro man (not a Freedom rider) who had been in the back of the bus with Genevieve was brought in.  She told the nurse and doctor to take care of him.  They did not. They did nothing for Hank Thomas.  Of the thirteen people brought to the hospital, only Ed Blankenheim, the Negro man and Genevieve had been admitted.
After awhile, having slept, Genevieve was questioned about the bombing by an FBI agent.  She was unaware that he or another FBI agent on the scene had persuaded the medical staff to treat all of the injured passengers.  Perhaps the cause of their failure to comply had not been entirely racial.  A group of Klansmen made an unsuccessful attempt to block the entrance to the emergency room.  The crowd outside swelled in numbers.  Several Klansmen threatened to burn the building down.  With nightfall approaching, recognizing that he had no police protection, the hospital superintendent ordered the Riders to leave.
Even though Hughes and several other Riders needed to stay, Joe Perkins had to comply.  It took him more than an hour to arrange safe passage out of the hospital.  The state troopers and the local police refused to provide the Riders transportation or escort even when they were transported.  Bert Bigelow called friends in Washington hoping to receive help from the federal government.  Perkins called Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham.  Shuttlesworth mobilized a fleet of eight cars.  He reminded the volunteer drivers that they had to behave non-violently.  “You mustn't carry any weapons. You must trust God and have faith."  Out of sight, several of the deacons pulled out shotguns from beneath their seats.
Shuttlesworth's deacons made their way across the back roads toward Anniston.  The hospital superintendent insisted that the interracial group could not stay the night.  At last the rescue mission pulled into the parking lot.  The police holding back the jeering crowd and the deacons showing their weapons, the Riders climbed into the cars.  The cars left. One rescuer remarked: “You couldn't tell the deputies from the Ku Klux."
The Riders wanted to know the fate of the Trailways group.  Perkins's phone conversation with Shuttlesworth earlier in the afternoon had informed him that the other bus had also run into trouble.  The deacons knew few details of the story.  Even so, it was evident to all that the defenders of white supremacy in Alabama had decided to smash the Freedom Ride with violence.  They would not countenance the law, the U.S. Constitution, or anything else interfering with the preservation of racial segregation in their state (Gross/ Arsenault 8-11)
Works cited:
Colvin, Rhonda.  As Trump attacks John Lewis, here’s how freedom riders broke the chains of segregation.”  The Washington Post.  January 15, 2017.  Web.
Cozzens, Lisa.   “Freedom Rides.” Web.
Doyle, Jack.  ““Buses Are A’Comin’- Freedom Riders: 1961.”  June 24, 2014.  Web.
“Freedom Rides: American Civil Rights Movement.”  Encyclopedia Britannica.  Web.
“Freedom Rides Quotes.”  Web.
“Freedom Rides.”  Stanford: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.  Web.
Gross, Terry.  “Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961,” containing excerpts from Raymond Arsenault’s Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.  NPR.  Web.
Mack, Dwayne.  “Freedom Rides (1961).”  Web.
“Meet the Players: Freedom Riders.”  American Experience.  Web.