Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. i-viii

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-x

List of Figures

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xi-xii

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xiii-xiv

There are many to thank, and that’s a good thing: it confirms that writing is never a solitary pursuit, even when it feels like one.
I am indebted to so many for so much. You probably know who you are, and I apologize in advance if, from brevity or forgetfulness, I have omitted your name here. Much like the Freedom Riders, you sought no credit, although you deserve it....

read more

Author’s Note

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xv-xviii

When one is writing history, the stories are only as good as those who have preserved them. I am thankful that many scholars and archivists have done so much to preserve the story of the Freedom Riders.
While I relied heavily on the sources noted in the bibliography, the majority of this book’s information is the result of personal interviews with the Freedom Riders. These conversations gave me access to the more personal moments of the movement, a goal that was always at the forefront of...

read more

Prologue: All Aboard

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-6

On the morning of Thursday, May 4, 1961, thirteen passengers—seven black and six white—purchased their bus tickets at the Trailways and Greyhound stations in Washington, DC, and prepared themselves for their journey. Leading the way was forty-one-year-old African American James Farmer, the newly appointed national director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Meticulously dressed in a suit and tie, Farmer ran his eyes over the silver buses that would soon transport him and his fellow Freedom Riders directly into the heart of Dixie. His formal attire was hardly a matter...

Part I. The Road Behind

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 7-8

read more

1. James Zwerg: Appleton, Wisconsin

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 9-26

In the fall of 1958, eighteen-year-old James Zwerg—Jim, to his friends—set foot on Beloit College’s Wisconsin campus for his first day of classes. A native of Appleton, Jim was anxious to find his future somewhere among the white-columned red-brick buildings that speckled the tree-lined quad. The tall, lean Wisconsinite had dreams of earning a sociology degree and, having come from a supportive middle-class family, seemed poised to do so—or to do anything else he wanted, for that matter. For the moment, the...

read more

2. Susan Wilbur: Nashville, Tennessee

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 27-40

One afternoon in the spring of 1960, seventeen-year-old Susan Wilbur glanced up from her homework to find her mother, a commercial artist, having returned home from work visibly shaken. ”What is it?” Susan asked.
“They’re having demonstrations downtown,” her mother replied, “and I’m afraid somebody’s going to get hurt.”
Somebody would get hurt. In fact, plenty of people got hurt. Nashville’s 1960 lunch-counter sit-ins were quick to rile up segregationists, whose rage intensified the following year when demonstrators set their sights on...

read more

3. Miriam Feingold: Brooklyn, New York

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 41-56

In some ways Miriam (Mimi) Feingold seemed destined to be a Freedom Rider. She was born into a left-leaning Jewish household in Brooklyn, the daughter of nonconformist parents, both of whom strongly supported civil rights issues. Her father, a math teacher at a local high school, and her mother, a librarian, were both active in the Teachers’ Union, which easily made them targets in the midst of the McCarthy era. Despite what Mimi later described as the “stifling conformity” of 1950s America, her parents...

read more

4. Charles Person: Atlanta, Georgia

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 57-72

I had barely boarded the bus before wondering if I was making a terrible mistake. After all, what kind of professor dedicates his spring break to spending even more time with students? My kind, I suppose—although I was equally motivated to sign up for our university’s civil rights pilgrimage by the prospect of meeting Charles Person. I knew only fragments of his story, but I was eager to learn more and to meet my first Freedom Rider face-to-face....

Part II. The Road Ahead

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 73-74

read more

5. Bernard LaFayette Jr.: Tampa, Florida

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 75-92

From the baggage claim at the Montgomery Regional Airport, I placed the call. One ring, two rings, three.
“Hello?”
“Dr. LaFayette?” I asked.
“Yes?”
I reintroduced myself, or tried to.
“Oh, it’s you again,” Bernard LaFayette Jr. said with a chuckle. “You sure are persistent.”
“It’s just that I’ve come a long way,” I explained. “And I really don’t want...

read more

6. Bill Harbour: Piedmont, Alabama

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 93-108

The Freedom Riders’ song had barely dissipated before we reconvened, this time at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church, just a mile from the former Greyhound station. It was the eve of the fifty-fifth anniversary of the church siege, and to commemorate the moment the Freedom Rides Museum had organized a community program complete with speakers, songs, and the guests of honor: a few dozen Freedom Riders, some of whom were returning to this place for the first time since that fateful night. This time, however...

read more

7. Catherine Burks: Birmingham, Alabama

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 109-124

At a few minutes past 7:30 a.m. on May 25, 2016, I took a seat on a bench in Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park. It was my thirty-second birthday, and to celebrate I ate some cold oatmeal alone. The park was empty, but on its periphery I spotted a local news team as well as a cadre of hardly inconspicuous Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, a few of whom gave me the once-over to ensure that my eating-oatmeal-in-a-park proclivities didn’t translate to me being a threat. They were on high alert, and for good reason....

read more

8. Hezekiah Watkins: Jackson, Mississippi

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 125-140

My journey was supposed to end with a trip to Parchman Farm—my attempt to conclude my ride where the original Freedom Riders had concluded theirs. I had been planning my visit for months, undergoing a background check, then negotiating the terms of my visit with frequent phone calls to various prison representatives. I prodded, begged, and cut through all the red tape I could. Months passed, the bureaucratic machine trudged...

read more

9. Arione Irby: Gee’s Bend, Alabama

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 141-148

My ride couldn’t end without a visit to the Alabama State Capitol, and so in late May 2016 I parked my car in the shadow of the rotunda, then passed through the metal detector. “Excuse me,” I said to the guard, “do you know where I can find Mr. Irby?”
“Oh sure,” the guard replied, smiling, and pointed to the second floor. “I think I hear him now.”
I took the stairs two at a time, and soon I heard him, too. On the second floor stood seventy-year-old Arione Irby, the capitol’s beloved tour guide,...

read more

Epilogue: The Last Stop

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 149-152

On a Friday morning in September 2015, nearly eight months before I hit the road, I settled down at a wooden table in our university’s archive and began leafing through an interlibrary-loan box of CORE records. My eyes scanned countless personal notes and memoranda and eventually landed on a folder overflowing with a pile of blue papers. I opened it and was surprised to find a selection of original Freedom Rider applications. For a moment I could not believe what I had found....

Sources

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 153-156

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 157-162

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 163-171