In this WSB newsfilm clip from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) headquarters in New York City, New York, in May or June, 1961, an unidentified CORE official speaks to a reporter about the ongoing Freedom Rides.
The clip begins outside the CORE offices. A white man, seen from behind, opens the door and walks into the office. Inside the office, office workers sit in front of typewriters at several desks throughout the room. An African American woman speaks on the telephone while a white woman and an African American man sit at typewriters.
After general office scenes, an off-screen reporter interviews an unidentified CORE official. The CORE official, a white man wearing a dark suit, suggests several reasons Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy may have requested a cooling-off period in the Freedom Rides, including the threat to prestige of the United States in foreign countries. Specifically, because President John F. Kennedy is heading to a conference with international leaders, civil rights workers should "refrain from doing anything that might reflect badly on this nation." The official counters this idea, declaring that the "cancer of segregation" hurts the country's prestige more than Freedom Rides, and asserting that it is more important to solve the problem of segregation than to ignore it.
After a break in the clip, the reporter asks the CORE worker about the possibility, presented by the attorney general, that more Freedom Rides might incite more violence in the South. The official replies that the state leaders in Mississippi have shown that the police can protect people from violence without the aid of federal marshals. The reporter then asks the CORE worker about the goals of the Freedom Rides. The man announces that CORE hopes to integrate Greyhound and Trailways bus terminals, lunch counters, and waiting rooms. The reporter asks when the integration might happen; the reply is not recorded.
In 1961, CORE organized the Freedom Ride as a test of bus facilities for interstate passengers. According to the 1960 Boynton v. Virginia United States Supreme Court ruling, segregation in interstate bus facilities was illegal. CORE hoped to test compliance by sponsoring a Washington-to-New Orleans trip through several Southern States. Patterned after the 1947 "Journey of Reconciliation," the trip began in Washington D.C. with three days of nonviolence training before the May 4 departure. The riders divided into two groups, one traveling by Greyhound and the other by Trailways buses. The ride met little resistance in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. However, on May 14, the Trailways bus was attacked and burned in Anniston, Alabama, and the Greyhound riders were beaten by a white mob in Birmingham, Alabama. In both cases, local law enforcement officers allowed the mob to attack the riders for several minutes before ending the riot. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the Justice Department tried to arrange safe passage for the rest of the ride, but on May 20 another group of riders traveling from Birmingham to Montgomery were met by a mob in Montgomery, and the riders and several bystanders, including Kennedy's personal representative John Seigenthaler, were severely beaten. On May 24, riders traveled from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi with heavy police escort the whole way. Unfortunately, under a secret arrangement between Mississippi officials and the Justice Department, the riders were arrested immediately in Jackson and charged with breach of peace. That same day, concerned about the reputation of the United States and President John F. Kennedy's upcoming conferences with European leaders, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy called for a "cooling-off period" and asked civil rights workers to stop subsequent Freedom Rides. Several civil rights organizations, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (NCLC), and the National Student Association, joined with CORE to form the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee (FRCC) and arrange for continuing attacks on segregated transportation throughout the South and especially in Jackson, Mississippi. After several months of rides, arrests, and ongoing trials, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in September ruled that interstate buses and facilities must desegregate beginning November 1.
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 an unidentified official from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) speaking to a reporter about ongoing the Freedom Rides, New York City, New York, 1961 May or June, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0747, 34:03/35:34, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.