In this WSB newsfilm clip from May 24, 1961, police observe a Trailways bus as it parks at the Jackson, Mississippi, station and then arrest two African American female Freedom Riders.
The clip begins with a Trailways bus driving through a downtown area of Jackson, Mississippi. Several uniformed police officers stand on the sidewalk and watch as the bus pulls into the station. Later, more policemen are seen; one of the policemen holds the leash of the dog next to him. Policemen escort two African American women, Julia Aaron and Jean Thompson, from the bus station to a waiting paddy wagon. The women carry suitcases, and a photographer takes pictures of the two as they approach the vehicle.
In 1961 the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized a "Freedom Ride" beginning in Washington, D.C. on May 4 with the plan to arrive in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 17. In New Orleans, the riders planned to join a celebration of the seventh anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education United States Supreme Court case ruling against segregated public education. During the journey, the Freedom Riders planned to test compliance with another Supreme Court ruling, Boynton v. Virginia. The Boynton case banned segregation in transportation facilities serving passengers traveling across state lines. The 1961 Freedom Ride was patterned after a 1947 "Journey of Reconciliation" during which CORE activists traveled through the upper South testing compliance with the Boynton decision. During the 1961 Freedom Ride, civil rights workers traveled in two groups, one by Greyhound and one by Trailways buses. On Mother's Day, May 14, the group traveling by Greyhound was attacked in Anniston, Alabama. A mob slashed the bus tires and firebombed the bus. Later in the day, a white mob met the Trailways riders in Birmingham and beat both the riders and several bystanders. By arrangement with local law enforcement, the mob had fifteen minutes to attack the Freedom Riders before the police would come to return order. Following the attacks, officials at the United States Department of Justice, including Attorney General Robert Kennedy, stepped in and tried to work with Alabama officials to guarantee protection for the Freedom Riders. When negotiations failed, the riders flew to New Orleans on May 16. Diane Nash and members of the Nashville Christian Leadership (NCLC) recognized the importance of continuing the Freedom Ride and arranged for subsequent groups of riders to continue the journey. A reorganized Freedom Ride traveled from Birmingham to Montgomery, Alabama on May 20, 1961. Montgomery law enforcement again agreed to not interfere as a white mob beat the riders. The following evening, local African Americans gathered at First Baptist Church in Montgomery for a mass meeting in support of the Freedom Riders. During the meeting, a mob surrounded the church and prevented the participants from leaving. The next morning, the Alabama National Guard and United States Marshals dispersed the crowd and escorted the meeting participants home. Over the next few days, civil rights leaders, Freedom Riders, Justice Department officials, and Alabama and Mississippi officials negotiated a plan for the riders to safely travel from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi. On May 24, two groups of riders boarded one Greyhound and one Trailways bus bound for Mississippi. Unbeknownst to the riders, they would be arrested in Mississippi as they exited the buses. After the arrests in Mississippi, most of the riders, following the "jail, no bail" policy began earlier the year as part of on-going sit-in demonstrations, refused bail in Mississippi and were sent to Parchman Penitentiary. Subsequent groups of riders throughout the rest of the summer also traveled to Mississippi and were arrested and sent to Parchman. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) finally passed policies against racial segregation in transportation that went into effect in November 1961.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of a Trailways bus driving through downtown and then parking at a bus station and police arresting two African American female Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi, 1961 May 24, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0736, 45:11/45:45, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.