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Freedom rides

The Freedom Rides were a series of student political protests performed in 1961 as part of the US civil rights movement. Student volunteers, African-American and white, called Freedom Riders rode in interstate buses into the pro-segregationist U.S. South to test the United States Supreme Court decision in 1960 that outlawed racial segregation in interstate public facilities, including bus stations. The rides were organized by activists from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) as well as the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They followed on the heels of dramatic sit-ins against segregation held by students and youth throughout the U.S. South the previous year.

The names of the riders included James Farmer, William Mahoney, John Lewis, James Zwerg, James Peck, Frederick Leonard, Diane Nash.

Technically, the Riders were not engaging in civil disobedience since they had the clear legal right to disregard any segregation rules in the states they visited concerning interstate public facilities. However, the volunteers still had to use their doctrine of nonviolent resistance in facing both mob violence and mass arrest by authorities who were determined to stop this protest. Meanwhile, the Federal Government was criticized for not giving a concerted effort to protect the riders. Eventually, the resulting publicity from the rides and the violent reaction to it led to a stricter enforcement of the earlier Supreme Court decision.

The activists in the campaign gained credibility among blacks in rural communities of the South, who were impressed by the riders' determination and heroism in the face of great danger. This credibility helped many of the subsequent Civil Rights campaigns, including campaigns for voter registration, freedom schools, and electoral campaigns.

There was one Freedom Ride prior to the famous ones; in 1947, Bayard Rustin and James Peck, CORE activists, organized a Freedom Ride through the South following a Supreme Court ruling desegregating the buses themselves (though not the bus terminals).