In December of 1960, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in restaurants and public transportation waiting rooms was unconstitutional. A few months later, several "freedom riders" sought to evaluate the ruling's implementation. Their journey began in Washington with two groups in Trailways and Greyhound buses, led by CORE's director James Farmer.
The groups' first stop was in Virginia, where the segregationist signs were still up. They met violent stares of whites outraged because inside the bus white people sat in the back and black people in the front.
When the buses arrived at Atlanta, they were received by a warm crowd of students headed by Martin Luther King. He warned them of the dangers of a KKK-ridden Alabama. They chose to keep going.
Never, in the history of this nation, have so many people been arrested for the cause of freedom and human dignity
On May 14, 1961, a few miles off of Anniston, Alabama, the Greyhounds bus was forced out of the road by a white mob who slashed its tires and stoned down its windows. Riders suffered savage and bloody assault, beaten by members of the KKK.
The riders had to evacuate to New Orleans, accompanied by the assistant attorney general to Robert F. Kennedy to ensure their safety. However, ten freedom riders from SNCC Nashville resumed the journey from Alabama. No bus company wanted to take the risk of transporting them, until Greyhound got them a driver. They were accompanied by police.
More than 60 buses with hundreds of freedom riders crossed the South between May and September 1961. Riders were widely detained, especially in Jackson. 300 people were jailed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. The rides inspired and shaped the consciousness of young people, leading to the expansion of SNCC and CORE work.