History 1961 – A bus carrying Freedom Riders was bombed and burned in Alabama.

Freedom Riders were groups of white and African American civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides, bus trips through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. Freedom Riders tried to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters at bus stations in Alabama, South Carolina and other Southern states. The groups were confronted by arresting police officers—as well as horrific violence from white protestors—along their routes, but also drew international attention to their cause.

The 1961 Freedom Rides, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), were modeled after the organization’s 1947 Journey of Reconciliation. During the 1947 action, African-American and white bus riders tested the 1946 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Morgan v. Virginia that found segregated bus seating was unconstitutional.

The 1961 Freedom Rides sought to test a 1960 decision by the Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional as well. A big difference between the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation and the 1961 Freedom Rides was the inclusion of women in the later initiative.

In both actions, black riders traveled to the American South—where segregation continued to occur—and attempted to use whites-only restrooms, lunch counters and waiting rooms.

The original group of 13 Freedom Riders—seven African Americans and six whites—left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961. Their plan was to reach New OrleansLouisiana, on May 17 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled that segregation of the nation’s public schools was unconstitutional.

The group traveled through Virginia and North Carolina, drawing little public notice. The first violent incident occurred on May 12 in Rock Hill, South CarolinaJohn Lewis, an African-American seminary student and member of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), white Freedom Rider and World War II veteran Albert Bigelow, and another African-American rider were viciously attacked as they attempted to enter a whites-only waiting area.

The next day, the group reached Atlanta, Georgia, where some of the riders split off onto a Trailways bus.

On May 14, 1961, the Greyhound bus was the first to arrive in Anniston, Alabama. There, an angry mob of about 200 white people surrounded the bus, causing the driver to continue past the bus station.

The mob followed the bus in automobiles, and when the tires on the bus blew out, someone threw a bomb into the bus. The Freedom Riders escaped the bus as it burst into flames, only to be brutally beaten by members of the surrounding mob.

The second bus, a Trailways vehicle, traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, and those riders were also beaten by an angry white mob, many of whom brandished metal pipes. Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connorstated that, although he knew the Freedom Riders were arriving and violence awaited them, he posted no police protection at the station because it was Mother’s Day.

Photographs of the burning Greyhound bus and the bloodied riders appeared on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country and around the world the next day, drawing international attention to the Freedom Riders’ cause and the state of race relations in the United States.

Following the widespread violence, CORE officials could not find a bus driver who would agree to transport the integrated group, and they decided to abandon the Freedom Rides. However, Diane Nash, an activist from the SNCC, organized a group of 10 students from Nashville, Tennessee, to continue the rides.

U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, began negotiating with Governor John Patterson of Alabama and the bus companies to secure a driver and state protection for the new group of Freedom Riders. The rides finally resumed, on a Greyhound bus departing Birmingham under police escort, on May 20.

The violence toward the Freedom Riders was not quelled—rather, the police abandoned the Greyhound bus just before it arrived at the Montgomery, Alabama, terminal, where a white mob attacked the riders with baseball bats and clubs as they disembarked. Attorney General Kennedy sent 600 federal marshals to the city to stop the violence.

The following night, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led a service at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, which was attended by more than one thousand supporters of the Freedom Riders. A riot ensued outside the church, and King called Robert Kennedy to ask for protection.

Kennedy summoned the federal marshals, who used teargas to disperse the white mob. Patterson declared martial law in the city and dispatched the National Guard to restore order.

On May 24, 1961, a group of Freedom Riders departed Montgomery for Jackson, Mississippi. There, several hundred supporters greeted the riders. However, those who attempted to use the whites-only facilities were arrested for trespassing and taken to the maximum-security penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.

During their hearings, the judge turned and looked at the wall rather than listen to the Freedom Riders’ defense—as had been the case when sit-in participants were arrested for protesting segregated lunch counters in Tennessee. He sentenced the riders to 30 days in jail.

Attorneys from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization, appealed the convictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed them.

The violence and arrests continued to garner national and international attention, and drew hundreds of new Freedom Riders to the cause.

The rides continued over the next several months, and in the fall of 1961, under pressure from the Kennedy administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals.


Remembering the Harlem Hellfighters

Lonnie G. Bunch III, Museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present a page from Our American Story, a regular online series for Museum supporters. It showcases individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story—our American story.

Remembering the Harlem Hellfighters

As the world prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this November, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is shining a spotlight on the critical role played by the approximately 200,000 African Americans who served in Europe during the conflict, including roughly 42,000 of whom saw combat.

One of the most renowned units of African American combat troops was the highly decorated 369th Infantry Regiment—best known as the “Harlem Hellfighters”—heroes whose stories, until recently, had largely been forgotten.

Before setting out for Europe, the unit was refused permission to participate in the farewell parade of New York’s National Guard, known as the “Rainbow Division,” because “black is not a color in the rainbow.”

But after being assigned to fight under the 16th Division of the French Army—because many white American soldiers refused to serve with black soldiers—they quickly proved their bravery and combat skills.

The regiment was originally nicknamed the “Black Rattlers” for the rattlesnake insignia that adorned their uniforms, and they were called “Men of Bronze” by the French.

It is believed that their German foes were the first to dub them “Hellfighters” for their courage and ferocity.

World War I Croix de Guerre

World War I Croix de Guerre medal awarded to the 369th Infantry Regiment. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In one engagement two of the most celebrated members of the unit, Private Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts, fought off an entire German patrol despite being severely wounded and out of ammunition. After Roberts became incapacitated, Johnson ultimately resorted to using his bolo knife.

During the war, the Harlem Hellfighters spent more time in continuous combat than any other American unit of its size, with 191 days in the frontline trenches. They also suffered more losses than any other American regiment, with more than 1,400 total casualties.

The extraordinary valor of the Harlem Hellfighters earned them fame in Europe and America, as newspapers recounted their remarkable feats. After the war, the French government awarded the coveted Croix de Guerre medal to 171 members of the regiment, as well as a Croix de Guerre citation to the unit as a whole. Certain members of the Harlem Hellfighters received a Distinguished Service Cross and other awards from the U.S. government. In 2015, Johnson received a Medal of Honor.

The Harlem Hellfighters were the first New York combat unit to return home, and the regiment, which had been denied a place in the farewell parade the prior year, was rewarded with a victory parade.

Stereograph of homecoming parade for the Harlem Hellfighters, 1919. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

On February 17, 1919, New Yorkers of every race turned out in huge numbers to cheer as 3,000 Harlem Hellfighters proudly marched up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to the music of their renowned regimental jazz bandleader, James Reese Europe.

Unfortunately, their fame quickly faded, and for nearly 100 years the remarkable story of the Harlem Hellfighters was largely erased from America’s national consciousness.

With the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, however, the courage and service of African American patriots like the Harlem Hellfighters is once again being recognized and celebrated.

The Museum’s Double Victory: The African American Military Experience exhibition explores how the African Americans who served in the military since the American Revolution have not only defended our country but also helped to lead the fight for equality and justice for the greater African American community.

As a Museum supporter, you can be proud of the important role that you play in bringing African American history, such as the story of the Harlem Hellfighters, to life—educating and inspiring people across America and around the world!

All the best,
DD YE year end 1 signature
Lonnie G. Bunch III
Founding Director

P.S. The Harlem Hellfighters served with distinction and proved that African Americans could fight as bravely and as well as white soldiers. However, they returned home to a nation that still treated them as second-class citizens. For almost a century their extraordinary exploits were largely forgotten, until the Museum reestablished their heroism in our national story. Thank you for your support. I hope you will consider joining as a Member or making a donation today.

Tell Your State Legislators to Rescind Article V Convention Applications

We’re getting uncomfortably close to a potentially disastrous event for our Constitution.  As of December 8, 2017, twenty-eight states have “live” applications to Congress to call an Article V convention for the purpose of proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). That means that if only six more states apply for such a convention, Congress will be forced to call it.

The danger in calling for such a convention is that based on the precedent of the May 14 Constitutional Convention of 1787, an Article V constitutional convention would have the power to make major changes in the Constitution, or even completely rewrite it, including changing the ratification process to make adoption of the revised constitution easier. This danger is referred to as “a runaway convention.”

In the early 1980s we were even closer to the calling of an Article V convention. Thirty-two of the necessary 34 states had applied to Congress to call a BBA Article V convention. Then over the years from 1988 to 2010, seventeen states rescinded (canceled) their BBA Article V convention applications based on the widespread knowledge that Article V constitutional conventions are threats to our rights as secured by the Constitution due to the power of such conventions to become runaway conventions. That meant that for a while only fifteen or sixteen states had “live” applications for a BBA Article V convention.

However, after 30 years had elapsed with no new BBA Article V convention applications approved, the momentum changed back in favor of applying for such conventions in 2013. Since then, some states that had rescinded their applications have reapplied, and some other states that had never applied, have now applied for the first time. However, 2016-2017 saw a resurgence in rescissions of BBA Article V convention applications, including rescissions in Delware (2016), Maryland (2017), Nevada (2017), and New Mexico (2017). Which brings us up to the present situation of twenty-eight states with “live” applications.

This resurgence of the Article V convention movement since 2013, although slowed down by the four recent rescissions, has been based on the energetic creation of new narratives by Article V convention proponents. However, these new narratives are based on numerous false marketing claims. For a rebuttal of these false marketing claims, we highly recommend that you view “Change It or Obey It? Why the Constitution Is the Solution,” a new 89-minute video presentation by constitutionalist Robert Brown by clicking on the graphic.

Once you’ve seen the video, we also recommend that you click the next graphic on the left and read the article, “Save the Constitution by Rescinding Article V Convention Applications,” for further information on the history of the Article V convention movement, the current status, and the need to rescind all existing Article V convention applications of all types in your state.  A “Model Resolution for a State Legislature to Rescind All Constitutional Convention Applications” is included in the article.

If you live in one of the 28 orange states shown in the BBA Article V Convention Status Map above, then the need is especially great for you to work with other activists and with your state legislators to get a rescission resolution introduced and passed. Remember that for every one of the 28 states that passes a rescission resolution, the BBA Article V convention movement is one state further away from their goal of 34 states.

If you live in Idaho, Oregon, South Carolina, or Virginia. you are off the hook for needing to rescind your state’s Article V convention applications because you have rescission resolutions that are still in effect and not overriden by later reapplications for a BBA Article V convention.

Please visit, phone, and email your state legislators in support of introducing and passing a rescission resolution. Although we provide a way for easy emailing to your state legislators, we know from long experience that getting a rescission resolution introduced and passed takes a lot more interaction with your legislators than that provided by emails alone.

Click here for the office locations and phone numbers of your state legislators.

Click here to view our Stop a Constitutional Convention action project page at JBS.org for more educational tools.

resource: john birch society – jbs.org

yes …them, but don’t get it twisted and don’t let the trump admin fool you we are in need to stay several steps ahead of them …Our constitution and democracy seem to be in danger …

imo ~ Nativegrl77