Remembering the freedom struggle of the African Americans, the Freedom Riders celebrate their 50th anniversary, Oprah Winfrey’s show invited 178 of the original Freedom Riders to appear as special guests on May 4.
“I went down because I believed that if Jesus was walking the Earth, he would have been there, and that’s what got me going,” said Richard Gilson former Christian minister at the show.
The show had been dedicated to all the Freedom rides and their fight against discrimination against the blacks 50 years ago.
Traceable to May, 4, 1961, members of the Freedom Riders of Nashville student group had raised their voices against the Jim Crow’s travel rule by traveling an inter-state bus which crossed the Eastern part of the United States from Virginia to Mississippi.
Those were the days when African Americans were not allowed to use public transports, theaters or restaurants. Buses were divided, separate waiting depots were maintained and there was also the system of race-based rest rooms.
The strategy of this journey in 1961 was to have a sitting arrangement of at least one interracial pair, one black rider sitting up front and the rest would sit spread over in the bus.
“In order to have anything you wanted, you had to fight for it, you had to stand up for your rights,” says Hardy, a member of Freedom Riders.
While the Freedom riders continued their revolt, some older civil rights organizations pleaded the Nashville students group to halt the whole journey.
Instead of getting demoralized, the fearless and youthful leaders urged the Committee of Racial Equality, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, headed by Martin Luther King to start a movement against such discrimination.
It yielded the results five months later when the Inter-state Commerce Commission with Robert Kennedy, then US attorney general, issuing a new law that annulled the discrimination. Prohibition of separation at all inter-state public facilities based on race, color or creed came into practice from Nov, 1, 1961.