A Guide to the Freedom Riders Press Photographs Album, circa 1960-1975
The Freedom Riders were groups of civil rights activists who challenged the non-enforcement of Supreme Court decisions desegregating interstate public transport and related facilities by riding on buses through segregated areas in the southern United States. The first Freedom Ride, led by Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) director James Farmer, began on May 4, 1961, with a group of riders traveling from Washington D.C. to a civil rights rally in New Orleans, Louisiana. The group faced some violence and arrests as they traveled through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, but were able to continue to make progress across the country. However, on May 14, 1961, the riders’ Greyhound bus was was firebombed outside of Anniston, Alabama, and riders were later violently beaten by a mob of KKK members in nearby Birmingham. After the first group of Freedom Riders flew directly to New Orleans from Birmingham, a second group of riders, students from Nashville, Tennessee, continued the trip, with riders again meeting violence as they entered Montgomery, Alabama. Over the next several months, hundreds civil rights activists traveled to the South to continue the protest, facing ongoing threats of violence and arrest, but succeeded in drawing attention to the continued segregation of public transportation facilities in the southern United States.
In response to the protests, on May 29, 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), asking it to comply with a November 1955 ruling that had desegregated bus travel. The ICC issued new policies that went into effect on November 1, 1961, allowing passengers to choose their seating on interstate buses and trains, removing "white" and "colored" signs from terminals, barring racially segregated drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms, and desegregating station lunch counters.
The Freedom Riders Press Photographs Album consists of 67 press photographs related to the civil rights movement. The majority of images show participants in the Freedom Rides, as well as police and federal officials connected to the rides. The photographs show events in Jackson, Mississippi, and Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama. Freedom Riders shown in the images include: James Farmer, Lucretia Collins, Diane Nash, Rev. William S. Coffin, Dr. David Swift, Dr. John Maguire, Charles Haynie, Joe Griffith, Tom Green, James Davis, Robert Heller, Paul Dietrich, and James Zwerg.
Also pictured in the photograph album are federal officials including Byron White and John Seigenthaler; Governors Ross Barnett (Mississippi) and John Patterson (Alabama); police officials Vernon Hunt, Jim Simpson, Jamie Moore, Eugene Connor, and L. B. Sullivan; KKK leader Alvin Horn; the National Guard; civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and individuals accused of rioting, including Claude V. Henley and Howard Thurston Edwards. A few photographs with additional subjects are included: a race riot in High Point, North Carolina; Robert M. Shelton (KKK leader); the registrar of voters in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana testifying in court; and a later photograph of Jesse Jackson with Gerald Ford and Vernon Jordan.
Archivist’s note: Photographs were removed from their original housing, a binder labeled “SK Freedom Ride 232.”
This collection is open for research use.
Contact photographs archivist for information regarding copyright.
Freedom Riders Press Photographs Album, circa 1960-1975, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Amy Bowman, June 2013.
Detailed Description of the Papers