Greyhound Bus Station Protests
On this site on May 14, 1961, civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders were attacked at a Greyhound bus terminal while protesting segregation of public transportation facilities. The mob physically attacked the bus itself, slashed its tires, and verbally assaulted those on board. Following the Freedom Rides, the Interstate Commerce Commission federally banned segregation in buses and train stations.
Backstory and Context
On May 14, 1961, a group of 13 civil rights activists, both black and white, boarded a bus heading for the Deep South. The group was organized by the Coalition of Racial Equality (CORE) and departed from Washington D.C. Along their journey passengers, known as “Freedom Riders” tried to integrate bus terminal facilities. Black patrons would attempt to eat at the “whites-only” lunch counters and use their restrooms while the white riders tried to do the same in the African American-designated facilities. This was not altogether unprecedented. In 1947 , CORE also organized the Journey of Reconciliation, designed to test Morgan v. Virginia, the 1946 Supreme Court decision which outlawed segregated bus seating.
Along the way, riders encountered tremendous violence from mobs of angry white citizens. Not only was the bus itself hit with bats and pipes, but the tires were also slashed while the patrons of the bus were being insulted by the mob. Eventually, after law enforcement intervened, the bus was able to move on towards Birmingham. Due to the previously incurred flat tire the bus had to stop which allowed the mob, which had followed the bus, to set the bus on fire.
Only after federal intervention were injured bus patrons taken to the local hospital. Later, this incident prompted a federal investigation. For months to come, many activists would take on Freedom Rides in order to fight racial injustice. Four months after it began, in September 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission banned segregation in buses and train stations across the nation.
Hilton, Mark. Greyhound Bus Station Protest, May 14,1961. The Historical Marker Database. August 06, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017. https://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=106621.
Freedom Rides. History. Accessed August 14, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/freedom-rides.