The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

The Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Supreme Court rulings motivated Farmer and his fellow CORE partici-
pants. In 1946 in Irene Morgan v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled seg-
regation on interstate carriers unconstitutional. The Boynton v. Virginia
decision, handed down in 1960, ruled that segregation was illegal in the
bus stations themselves if they served interstate travelers.7 Farmer's
intention, and that of the dozen riders on two buses that left Washing-
ton in May, was to make their way through the South to New Orleans,
testing integration of the restrooms, lunch counters, and water foun-
tains in small towns in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana
along the way. The Kennedys-Attorney General Robert as well as
President John F. Kennedy-were opposed to such a potentially violent
confrontation, and Martin Luther King had also questioned the wisdom
of such a trip, as did Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins. Neither their
protestations and objections nor the torching of one of the buses out-
side Anniston, Alabama, nor the unmerciful beatings suffered by the rid-
ers on the other bus at the Alabama state line and again when a mob
greeted the bus in Birmingham, deterred Farmer.8
Photographs of the burning bus were published in major newspapers
such as the New York Tzmes and the Washington Post and in local papers
such as the Marshall News Messenger. After both bus companies refused to
carry the original thirteen Freedom Riders another mile, members of
the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee joined CORE mem-
bers, boarding buses and pouring into Alabama and Mississippi to sup-
port the efforts of the original riders. They began filling the jails. They
were also filling newspaper pages and television screens with documen-
tation of the beatings they suffered at the hands of white thugs and-too
often-lawmen as well. Farmer rejoined the Freedom Rides four days
after the funeral of his father, was incarcerated in Hinds County,
Mississippi, and then spent forty days in Parchman Prison. For three
months, Freedom Riders rolled into the South and were roughed up
and arrested-as television cameras and news photographers took roll
7With the Irene Morgan v. Vzrg nza decision (1946) and the Boynton v. Virgtnza decision (1960)
the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional on interstate travel (Morgan) or
in the facilities used to serve interstate travelers (Boynton). The Fellowship for Reconclhation
(FOR) had staged a "Journey of Reconciliation" in 1947 to test the Morgan decision as to the
integration of passengers on carriers, but the trip was only through the upper South. Farmer and
CORE proposed to go deeper into the South to test both Morgan and Boynton. The steps leading
to the final organization of the Freedom Rides as well as the Journey of Reconciliation can be
found m James Farmer, Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Cavil Rights Movement (New
York: Arbor House, 1985; reprint. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1998), 195-196.
a Farmer's account of the Freedom Rides can be found in Lay Bare the Heart. Farmer himself
left the first Freedom Ride because his father, stricken with cancer of the mouth and throat, died
the night before the buses were to enter Alabama John Lewis had also been on the first ride but
left before the buses entered the Deep South. Both men rejoined the Freedom Rides and were
jailed in Hinds County and then m Parchman Prison.

2002

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed April 25, 2015.