Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

By Raymond Arsenault | Go to book overview

5
Get on Board, Little Children

Get on board, little children, Get on board, little children,
Get on board, little children, Let's fight for human rights.
Can't you see that mob a-comin', Comin' 'round the bend.
If you fight for freedom, They'll try to do you in.

—1960s freedom song1

THE JOYOUS LATE-NIGHT RENDEZVOUS in New Orleans captured the raw emotion of the moment, but in the cold light of day on Tuesday the complex realities of the situation swept over the Freedom Riders like a dense cloud. Morning conversations among the Riders and their hosts revealed considerable confusion about the implications of what had just happened. At the home of Oretha and Doris Jean Castle—the unofficial headquarters of New Orleans CORE, where several of the Riders spent the night—there was nervous speculation about the future of the nonviolent movement in the Deep South. Even in cosmopolitan New Orleans, the political atmosphere was more threatening than anyone had expected. Within hours of the Riders' arrival, the South Louisiana White Citizens' Council asked Mayor deLesseps Morrison to "rid the community of these agitators before violence erupts." And later in the day, during a press briefing held at Xavier University (where some of the Riders were housed until a bomb threat forced an evacuation of their dormitory), Gordon Carey and Ben Cox were bombarded by questions from hostile reporters who seemed to accept the Citizens' Council's claim that CORE was "a lawless, radical group." When one reporter suggested that the violence-plagued Freedom Ride had failed, Cox countered: "It proved what we set out to prove—that American citizens cannot travel freely in the United States. Laws are on the books, but they are not being enforced." Before flying home to New York for medical care, Jim Peck tried to reassure his fellow

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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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