Arsenault, Raymond.

Freedom riders : 1961 and the struggle for racial justice / Raymond Arsenault. - Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2006. - xii, 690 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. - Pivotal moments in American history .

Includes bibliographical references (p. [653]-679) and index.

You don't have to ride Jim Crow -- Beside the weary road -- Hallelujah! I'm a-travelin' -- Alabama bound -- Get on board, little children -- If you miss me from the back of the bus -- Freedom's coming and it won't be long -- Make me a captive, Lord -- Ain't gonna let no jail house turn me 'round -- Woke up this morning with my mind on freedom -- Oh, freedom -- Epilogue : glory bound -- Appendix : roster of freedom riders.

They were black and white, young and old, men and women. In the spring and summer of 1961, they put their lives on the line, riding buses through the American South to challenge segregation in interstate transport. Their story is one of the most celebrated episodes of the civil rights movement, yet a full-length history has never been written until now. In these pages, acclaimed historian Raymond Arsenault provides a gripping account of six pivotal months that jolted the consciousness of America. Here is the definitive account of a dramatic and indeed pivotal moment in American history, a critical episode that transformed the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. Raymond Arsenault offers a meticulously researched and grippingly written account of the Freedom Rides, one of the most compelling chapters in the history of civil rights. Arsenault recounts how in 1961, emboldened by federal rulings that declared segregated transit unconstitutional, a group of volunteers--blacks and whites--traveled together from Washington DC through the Deep South, defying Jim Crow laws in buses and terminals, putting their bodies and their lives on the line for racial justice. The book paints a harrowing account of the outpouring of hatred and violence that greeted the Freedom Riders in Alabama and Mississippi. One bus was disabled by Ku Klux Klansmen, then firebombed. In Birmingham and Montgomery, mobs of white supremacists swarmed the bus stations and battered the riders with fists and clubs while local police refused to intervene. The mayhem in Montgomery was captured by news photographers, shocking the nation, and sparking a crisis in the Kennedy administration, which after some hesitation and much public outcry, came to the aid of the Freedom Riders. Arsenault brings the key actors in this historical drama vividly to life, with colorful portraits of the Kennedys, Jim Farmer, John Lewis, Diane Nash, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Their courage, their fears, and the agonizing choices made by all these individuals run through the story like an electric current. The saga of the Freedom Rides is an improbable, almost unbelievable story. In the course of six months, some four hundred and fifty Riders expanded the realm of the possible in American politics, redefining the limits of dissent and setting the stage in the years to come for the 1963 Birmingham demonstrations, Freedom Summer and the Selma-to-Montgomery March. With characters and plot lines rivaling those of the most imaginative fiction, this is a tale of heroic sacrifice and unexpected triumph.

0195136748 (alk. paper) 9780195136746 (alk. paper)

Civil rights movements--History--Southern States--20th century.
African Americans--History--Civil rights--Southern States--20th century.
Segregation in transportation--History--Southern States--20th century.
African Americans--History--Segregation--Southern States--20th century.
Civil rights workers--History--United States--20th century.
African American civil rights workers--History--20th century.

Southern States--History--Race relations--20th century.

E185.61 / .A69 2006


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