This Day in Black History: May 4, 1961

The Congress of Racial Equality staged its first freedom ride to challenge racial segregation. 

Posted: 05/04/2012 07:00 AM EDT

On May 4, 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) staged its first “freedom ride” out of Washington, D.C., through the Deep South in efforts to challenge racial segregation.


Although the Boyton v. Virginia  Supreme Court ruling integrated interstate travel, strong opposition against integration remained in the South and violence kept the races divided on buses and trains. CORE decided to attack segregation head on with the rides and sent a group of seven Black and six white activists who rode on a bus together in defiance of local laws and customs.

The riders endured considerable adversity in efforts to make the trip, including being severely beaten and eventually having their bus burned.

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(Photo: Birmingham News/Landov)