Introduction to Segregation in the South, 1961

Racial segregation was the rule throughout all of the southern and in areas of the northern United States  until the 1960s.  Public facilities were claimed to be “separate but equal” by proponents of segregation.   Those who violated these social mores were subject to abuse ranging from beatings to bombings to lynchings.  (The lynching shown occurred in Marion, Indiana in 1930)1.  In 1961, the Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation was still in its infancy, with only a few victories realized (notably integration of Woolworth’s lunch counters and, shown at the left, integration of the city buses in Montgomery, Alabama2 ). The federal government had passed an Interstate Commerce Commission law stating that it was illegal to segregate public interstate facilities. However, this federal law was officially ignored throughout the South with separate white and “colored” facilities enforced at bus and train stations 3 . As a rule throughout the South, police not only turned a blind eye to violence against movement people, but were often active participants in the beatings.  Pleas to President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to enforce the federal law were ignored, and the U.S. Justice Department turned a blind eye to these violations, despite pleas to them to enforce the laws prohibiting segregation of interstate facilities.

Intro to Racial Segregation thmb_02_slide0032_image007 thmb_03_slide0005_image001 thmb_04_slide0034_image005 thmb_07_slide0033_image017 thmb_10_slide0020_image011 thmb_21_slide0021_image027


50th Reunion of the Freedom Riders, Chicago 2011

These pictures were taken by David Fankhauser at the 50th Reunion of Freedom Riders in Chicago, 27 April to 30 April 2011.

First set from the 25th floor of the Omni Hotel.  Thanks Oprah.

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Breakfast at the Omni, April 28, 2011

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On the bus (didn’t we have fun singing!) and disembarking at Harpo Studios (then they took my camera away!)

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My student guests from Simeon High School in South Chicago, with their teacher Steven Guarnieri (my future son-in-law) and Jesse Jackson

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Photos from the April 29th sessions

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Photos from the April 30th sessions

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Justice Department Enforces the Law

That summer, the Justice Department succeeded in getting the states to agree not to interfere with interstate travelers, and allow unrestricted, and thus we did accomplish the integration of public waiting rooms.

And don’t we STILL have a long way to go before a person is valued for his person instead of his color, creed or religion?

1    Kasher, Steven, The Civil Rights Movement, A photographic History, 1954-68, p. 20.
2    Ibid, p. 31.
3    Wilkenson, Brenda, The Civil Rights Movement, An Illustrated History, p. 82.
4    Kasher, p. 145.
5    Williams, Juan, Eyes on the Prize, America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, p. 12.
6    Williams, p. 144.
7    Kasher, p. 86.
8     Williams, p. 150.
9     Wilkenson, p. 115.
10    Wexler, Sanford, An Eyewitness of the Civil Rights Movement , p. 130
NOTE: I have been called to task (correctly, I might add) for not crediting the photographers who have taken these images of the Freedom Rides. I am eager to give credit to these individuals if you happen to know who took the pictures I have posted. Send me an email with the information, thanks.

Mattresses are Removed

Our singing went on for hours and hours a day. Several times the guards (affectionately known as “screws”) ordered us to shut up, which caused us to sing louder. Finally, the Warden came in and said we had to stop singing, that it was bothering the cooks. This was hilarious to us, since the cooks were black trustees who clearly were getting a kick out of our spirit and defiance. He announced that if we did not stop singing, that he would take away our tooth brushes. We sang louder. Out went toothbrushes. We kept singing. He ordered that our bibles be taken, we sang louder. Bibles gone.  If we didn’t stop singing, he would have our mattresses and bedding taken out.  We sang with even more gusto. They came to take the mattresses, and some prisoners who tried to hold on to their mattresses had “wrist breakers” applied to them. These are “handling” devices with a metal strap with a leverage handle that tightens the strap around the wrist. The combination of tightness and leverage makes it impossible to resist its action, and has resulted in many a wrist to be broken in prison.

Meeting White Volunteers at Train Station

Dave Myers and I remained in Dr. Abernathy’s home for the next several days. Since we were the only white Freedom Riders at this early stage, we were sent to meet new (white) riders coming into the train station. There was increasing concern about blacks picking up whites. Waiting for new volunteers to arrive at the train station was tense, especially every time a policeman came by, but we were able to meet the new Riders and escort them to safe houses uneventfully.