These Freedom Riders Refused To Back Down In The Face Of Violence

bus mural at freedom riders national monument
Cydney Smith
April 26, 2023

On Mother’s Day in 1961, activists rode on Greyhound buses through the South to fight segregation on public transportation — which had been ruled unconstitutional the previous year. But the KKK and Alabama’s pro-segregationist government conspired to violently stop these Freedom Riders’ efforts.

With a burning hot desire to uphold the racial hierarchy, Birmingham’s police commissioner and police sergeant conspired to give a mob of racist whites FREE REIGN to attack the bus for 15 minutes uninterrupted! And attack they did.

Still dressed in their Sunday best, the mob first attacked a bus in Anniston, Alabama. They slashed its tires and threw a firebomb, hoping to blow the Riders to smithereens.

Many Riders were hospitalized. Many others narrowly escaped lynching. But the violence was far from over.

Refusing to give up their campaign, the Riders continued on into Birmingham the next day. The KKK was waiting, armed with bats, pipes, and bicycle chains. But then, the Freedom Riders’ bravery caught the international eye. 

Soon the world knew the incredible violence Black America faced simply for using our constitutional right to ride the bus.

Inspired by these brave Freedom Riders, more activists risked their lives to take Freedom Rides that year. Just like today, they knew that no matter how violent it may be, we must never flinch in the face of white supremacy.