The Freedom Riders wanted to see progress. They were from the Ku Klux Klan. almost killed

The Freedom Riders wanted to see progress.  They were from the Ku Klux Klan.  almost killed

Tech Highlights:

  • On the fourth episode, Hank Thomas and six other Freedom Riders were nearly killed when their bus was set on fire in rural Alabama, where the Ku Klux Klan controlled, on May 14, 1961.

  • On the audio “Seven Days of 1961,” activists, many of whom were teens at the time, discuss how they sacrificed everything to fight white supremacy.

Hank Thomas tells how the Riders’ journey devolved into hours of heinous bloodshed in Alabama, as federal agents deliberately let local cops to join with the Ku Klux Klan.

Hank Thomas:

The Mother’s Day bloodshed galvanized a movement. After Hank Thomas and other Freedom Riders barely escaped death, new Riders poured into the South for months, risking everything to force the country to face the hateful actions upholding unlawful, racist practices.

When the bus started to burn we all knew that if we got off the bus we’d probably be killed. I made a decision whether I’m going to be beaten to death or whether I’m going to die on that burning bus.

Nathalie Boyd:

On May 14th, 1961 a Greyhound bus carrying seven Freedom Riders pulled into Anniston, Alabama and was immediately swarmed by angry white supremacists. The Freedom Ride movement to integrate travel stations nearly ended there. Instead, waves of new riders poured into the south for months, risking everything to force the country to face the hateful actions that upheld unlawful racist Jim Crow practices.

Nathalie Boyd: I’m Nathalie Boyd, a podcast producer with USA Today. Hank Thomas was only 19 when he became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders that traveled from Washington, DC, to New Orleans. Hank sat down with us and got a little emotional as he relived the terrifying events of that day. This is the Seven Days of 1961 podcast. Hear history from the people who made it.

Hank Thomas: Philosophically I’m not a non-violent person and one of the things that protected me while I was on the picket line or even sitting in, I’d always have the meanest look on my face, and I think most of the white guys were obviously smaller than myself and if they had any particular thought about beating up on somebody it wasn’t going to be me, because I did not look like I was going to be an easy target.

Nathalie Boyd: Supreme Court rulings in 1946 and 1960 outlawed segregated bus seating and facilities, but Jim Crow practices still relegated black people to substandard accommodations. The Freedom Riders traveled on two different bus lines, Greyhound and Trailways, to test and document compliance of desegregation throughout the south.

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