Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

By Raymond Arsenault | Go to book overview

11
Oh, Freedom

Oh, Freedom, Oh, Freedom, No More Jim Crow Over Me.
And before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.

—1960s freedom song1

JIM FARMER woke up on the morning of September 1 with a troubled mind. He had been national director of CORE for exactly seven months and was proud of what he and the Freedom Riders had accomplished. But, as he contemplated the mounting challenges to the nonviolent movement, he couldn't escape the thought that Roy Wilkins, Thurgood Marshall, and other critics of the Freedom Rides might be right after all. With the appellate trials in Jackson bogged down in confusion, with the escalation of violence in McComb and Monroe, and with no apparent movement in the Interstate Commerce Commission's deliberations, there was little reason for optimism. Despite all of the sacrifices, and despite many inspiring acts of courage, the Freedom Rides appeared to be headed for failure. After four months of Rides and the mobilization of hundreds of activists, the crisis had evolved into a war of attrition that seemed to favor the defenders of segregation. Having set out to prove the viability of direct action in the Deep South, CORE was in danger of proving exactly the opposite. Confounded by the ambiguous response of the Kennedy administration, a strategy designed to guarantee federal protection of constitutional rights had actually put the Freedom Riders at the mercy of unreconstructed state and local officials. Perhaps worst of all, by inadvertently revealing the movement's financial and legal vulnerability, the Freedom Rides had placed the entire civil rights struggle in jeopardy.

Later that day, as Farmer made his way to a staff planning meeting at a Washington church, several reporters pressed him for a statement on the

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Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Raymond Arsenault ii
  • Pivotal Moments in American History iii
  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Editors' Note xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow 11
  • 2: Beside the Weary Road 56
  • 3: Hallelujah! I'M A-Travelin' 93
  • 4: Alabama Bound 140
  • 5: Get on Board, Little Children 177
  • 6: If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus 209
  • 7: Freedom's Coming and It Won't Be Long 259
  • 8: Make Me a Captive, Lord 304
  • 9: Ain't Gonna Let No Jail House Turn Me 'Round 343
  • 10: Woke Up This Morning with My Mind on Freedom 382
  • 11: Oh, Freedom 424
  • Epilogue: Glory Bound 477
  • Acknowledgments 527
  • Appendix: Roster of Freedom Riders 533
  • Notes 588
  • Bibliography 653
  • Index 680
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