Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider Remembers

Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider Remembers

Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider Remembers

Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider Remembers

Synopsis

"This is the story of Australia's historic Freedom Ride, the 1965 bus journey into the heart of the country to fight racism, from one who was there. "

Excerpt

You can always start earlier in the writing of history, but I begin this story with a student demonstration for civil rights in the centre of Sydney on 6 May 1964. Held just nine months before the Freedom Riders set out on their remarkable journey from the University of Sydney's graceful neo-Oxfordian quadrangle to the race-inflected towns of northern New South Wales, this demonstration—surprisingly, perhaps—supported the civil rights not of Indigenous Australians, but of African Americans.

Perhaps it wasn't so surprising. in their concern for racism overseas, the students' actions were not unusual. Eminent anthropologist Bill Stanner had written a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald only four days earlier referring to that ‘mountainous fact of Australian mentality: that we are angered only by very distant racial wrongs’. Racial inequality was often understood more easily elsewhere than at home—at least in the imagination.

Opposition to South African apartheid, for example, was growing rapidly at this time. After some large campus meetings, and a demonstration of thousands of students in Martin Place in Sydney in reaction to the shootings in Sharpeville in March 1960, there had been a lull in activity, though the Students Representative Council at the University of Sydney held remembrances of the event each year. Unlike British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who saw the Sharpeville shootings as ‘the turning point in the history of race relations’, and who recognised a ‘wind of . . .

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