In this WSB newsfilm clip from May 1961, Assistant Attorney General Byron White speaks to reporters about the presence of federal marshals in Montgomery, Alabama, following an attack on the Freedom Riders.
The clip begins with White walking from an airplane hangar; several cameramen take pictures of White as he walks on the tarmac. White stands in front of an airplane with several microphones in front of him and a reporter standing on either side. An off-screen reporter asks White about the danger of further violence in Montgomery, to which White replies that while he believes the possibility of further violence is remote, the marshals will stay in Montgomery for a few days in case of violence in the community or surrounding areas. The reporter then asks if White still thinks marshals are necessary in Montgomery. White declares that "it was a wise decision" to send marshals to the city after mob violence indicated law and order was not maintained in the community. In the end, White points out, Alabama governor John Patterson declared martial law and brought in members of the Alabama National Guard.
The 1961 Freedom Ride, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), began in Washington D.C. on May 4, 1961 and traveled through Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia with only minor disturbances. The interracial group of riders tested compliance with a 1960 Supreme Court ruling against segregation in interstate travel in these Deep South states. On May 14, Mother's Day, the two groups of Freedom Riders were attacked in Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama. A second group of riders arranged by the Nashville, Tennessee student movement, was also attacked on May 20 in Montgomery, Alabama. During the riot in Montgomery, John Seigenthaler, Attorney General Robert Kennedy's personal assistant, was severely beaten. The riot in Montgomery following the riders' arrival lasted several hours, and President John F. Kennedy finally authorized federal marshals to go to the city and protect the riders. White mobs again gathered and threatened the riders at a mass meeting held at First Baptist Church on May 21. The mobs were finally dispersed early in the morning of May 22, after Alabama governor John Patterson declared martial law and sent members of the Alabama National Guard to the church where they escorted the weary meeting participants home.
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 Assistant Attorney General Byron White speaking to reporters about the presence of federal marshals following an attack on the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama, 1961 May, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0781, 2:54/03:54, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.