ęDavid B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.,
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
U.C. Clermont College
Batavia OH 45255
|Freedom Rider Bus is
burned in Anniston, AL
National Guard in
(As of the 7 February 2002 revision, the total count was 413.)
|David Fankhauser in
Montgomery Trailways Station
28 May 1961 (above). (left)
His mugshot, later that day in
|Public interstate facilities still
segregated in 1961, feds ignore
Freedom Rides proceed from Washington, DC with minor resistance until Anniston, Alabama
Violence in Anniston, Alabama
Violence in Birmingham, Alabama
Hospitalized Freedom Riders ejected from hospital
SNCC gets involved in the Freedom Rides
Robert Kennedy urges restraint
Violence in Montgomery, Alabama
Original Freedom Riders, battered, disband
David Fankhauser joins the Freedom Rides
"Hiding out" in Ralph Abernathy's home
Planning meetings with Martin Luther King
Freedom Rides leave Montgomery for Jackson
Traveling through Alabama and Mississippi
Arrested in Jackson. Mississippi
Initial time in Jackson City Jail
Freedom Riders fill up the City Jail's "bull pen"
Moved to Parchman State Penitentiary
Freedom songs are crucial to our spirits, but target of guards
Mattresses are removed
"Sleeping" bare skin on steel plate
Screens removed, plague of insects, then we are drenched with DDT at 2 am
Warden is visibly shaken
Delegation from minnesota inspects conditions
Twelve days of hunger strike ends
Uncertainty about release date
Trip from Jackson, Mississippi to Cincinnati, Ohio
Justice Department enforces the law
INTRODUCTION TO SEGREGATION IN THE SOUTH, 1961.
||Racial segregation was the rule throughout all of the southern and in areas of the northern United States until the 1960s. Public facilities were claimed to be "separate but equal" by proponents of segregation. Those who violated these social mores were subject to abuse ranging from beatings to bombings to lynchings. (The lynching shown occurred in Marion, Indiana in 1930)1. In 1961, the Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation was still in its infancy, with only a few victories realized (notably integration of Woolworth's lunch counters and, shown at the left, integration of the city buses in Montgomery, Alabama2 ). The federal government had passed an Interstate Commerce Commission law stating that it was illegal to segregate public interstate facilities. However, this federal law was officially ignored throughout the South with separate white and "colored" facilities enforced at bus and train stations 3 . As a rule throughout the South, police not only turned a blind eye to violence against movement people, but were often active participants in the beatings. Pleas to President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to enforce the federal law were ignored, and the U.S. Justice Department turned a blind eye to these violations, despite pleas to them to enforce the laws prohibiting segregation of interstate facilities.|
FREEDOM RIDES PROCEED WITH MINOR RESISTANCE UNTIL ANNISTON, ALABAMA
Credit: Jack Delano, My friends: Wallie Nelson (blk)
Durham NC in May, 1940 Ernie Bromley (hat)
Jim Peck ("51 stiches Peck...":)
|As a way of drawing attention to the continued
segregation in public facilities, the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE) launched the Freedom Rides on 4 May
1961. This Freedom Ride was modeled after an earlier
Fellowship of Reconcilliation (FOR)demonstration staged in
1947 in which an integrated group planned to take public
busses from Washington DC to New Orleans with the intent
of integrating public facilities through out the South5.
The picture at the left shows two personal friends, Wally
Nelson and Ernie Bromley, second and third from
left. Jim Peck, 4th from left, also joined the 1961
Freedom Rides, and was a target of a particularly vicious
beating (see below). 6
[ The identities of all participants in that first FOR Freedom Ride were, from left to right in the photo: Worth Randle, Wallace Nelson, Ernest Bromley, James Peck, Igal Roodenko, Bayard Rustin, Joseph Felmet, George Houser and Andrew Johnson.]
In the 1961 Freedom Rides, an integrated group of civil rights activists rode Greyhound and Trailways busses into the South planning for black riders to enter "whites only" sections while white riders would enter the "colored" waiting rooms. The integrating actions of these Freedom Riders met with relatively minor resistance until they arrived in Anniston, Alabama on 14 May 1961. The map at the left shows the route taken. 7
VIOLENCE IN ANNISTON, ALABAMA
These amazing pictures are reported to have been taken by Joe "Little Joe" Postiglione of the Anniston Star. (Thanks to Fredrick Burger for this info.) There are reported to be up to 35 pictures he took that day, as the only photograher on the scene. Where are they?
|In Anniston, Alabama, a white mob
awaited the arrival of the first bus bearing the Freedom
Riders at the Greyhound station. As it arrived, they
attacked the bus with iron pipes and baseball bats and
slashed its tires. The terrified bus driver hastily
drove out of the station, but the punctured tires forced
the bus to pull off the road in a rural area outside of
Anniston. The white mob who pursued the bus, fire bombed
it and held the doors shut preventing riders from exiting
the burning bus. Finally an undercover policeman drew his
gun, and forced the doors to be opened. The mob pulled the
Freedom Riders off the bus and beat them with iron pipes
7. The bus became completely engulfed in flames8,
and was completely destroyed 9. (Here is riveting
description in "The Race Beat:"by
Roberts and Klibinoff.)
The second bus carrying Freedom Riders arrived in Anniston an hour later at the Trailways station. The bus driver got off and talked with Anniston police and a group of 8 white men. After the black Freedom Riders refused orders to move to the back of the bus, the white gang came flying onto the bus and beat and stomped the riders, especially targeting white "nigger lovers." The white gang threw the bleeding and semi-conscious riders to the back of the bus, and it left for Birmingham.
VIOLENCE IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
|In Birmingham, an FBI informant in the Klan learned of a detailed plan in which Police Chief Bull Conner had agreed to give the Klan 15 minutes after the bus arrived to beat the riders before local police would arrive. The plan was reported to the FBI headquarters, but no action was taken. The Trailways station was filled with Klansmen and reporters (including Howard K. Smith). When the Freedom Riders exited the bus, they beaten by the mob with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains, and then, battered and bleeding, they were arrested. White Freedom Riders were particularly singled out for frenzied beatings. Two riders were hospitalized, including white Freedom Rider Jim Peck with 51 stitches in his head. Rev. Shuttlesworth in Birmingham was notified of the beatings by a fleeing reporter.|
HOSPITALIZED FREEDOM RIDERS EJECTED FROM HOSPITAL
SNCC GETS INVOLVED IN THE FREEDOM RIDES
ROBERT KENNEDY URGES RESTRAINT
|When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached Attorney General Robert Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders (!) and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Montgomery, Alabama to observe the Freedom Riders' arrival in that city which was scheduled to happen shortly.|
VIOLENCE IN MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA
|(Bettman/CORBIS)||On May 21, 1961, the surviving contingent of Riders took a bus from Birmingham to Montgomery, Alabama, protected by a contingent of the Alabama State Highway Patrol. However, when they reached the Montgomery city limits, the Highway Patrol abandoned them. At the bus station, a large white mob was waiting with baseball bats and iron pipes. The local police allowed them to viciously beat the Freedom Riders uninterrupted. Again, white Freedom Riders, branded "Nigger-Lovers," were singled out for particularly brutal beatings. There is a famous picture of Jim Zwerg with blood running all down his suit. Justice Department official Seigenthaler was beaten and left unconscious lying in the street. Ambulances, manned by white attendents, refused to take the wounded to the hospital. Brave local blacks finally rescued them. A number of the Freedom Riders were hospitalized.|
ORIGINAL FREEDOM RIDERS DISBAND
|The remainder of the Freedom Riders were injured and battered, and CORE and felt that they could not continue the Freedom Ride, and elected to fly them to New Orleans where they disbanded (ironically on the 7th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education). At this point, SNCC felt more than ever that the Freedom Rides should continue. Again, Diane Nash of SNCC played a major role in salvaging the Freedom rides when she sent out call to campuses around the eastern United States for volunteers to come to join the Freedom Ride to keep the demonstration going.|
DAVID FANKHAUSER JOINS THE FREEDOM RIDES
"HIDING OUT" IN RALPH ABERNATHY'S HOME
|We were whisked from the airport to Rev. Ralph Abernathy's house, and immediately told to keep away from the windows, because knowledge of whites staying in a black home could cause us to be targeted by the Klan. Rev. Abernathy worked very closely with Martin Luther King, Jr., and because of his civil rights activities, had already had his home bombed. Threats continued to pour in. Dr. King who had become the Chairman of the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee, and Rev. Abernathy opened his home to strategy meetings. The night of our arrival in Montgomery, we held a planning meeting with Drs. King and Abernathy. A group from Yale, including Rev. William Sloan Coffin and a group of divinity students was soon to arrive to join the rides. For maximum effect, it was decided that the Yale group would go as the next group, and Dave Myers and I were to wait until enough volunteers had amassed for the following busload. Meanwhile, Attorney General Kennedy had called out the National Guard to guard the bus stations, and the decision was finally made at the local level that state police would prevent additional major violence. The Yale group was bussed to Jackson, (I believe on Friday 26 May) where they were arrested and bailed out. We were relieved to hear that there was no violence.|
PLANNING MEETINGS WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING
MEETING WHITE VOLUNTEERS AT TRAIN STATION
FREEDOM RIDES LEAVE MONTGOMERY FOR JACKSON
||Sunday 28 May, we got up at dawn and were driven to the
Trailways Bus Station. A large contingent of National
Guard were posted outside of the bus station to prevent
the KKK and other local white supremacists from attacking
the Freedom Riders. We entered and successfully integrated
the Montgomery Trailways station, and after twenty to
thirty minutes, boarded a bus bound from Montgomery,
Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi . A large contingent of
Alabama State Police cars were stationed at the bus
terminal, and as the bus left the terminal, the State
Police surrounded it, forming an escort. The governor and
local officials had decided that Alabama was no longer
going to occupy the front pages with pictures of rioting
whites beating up non-violent Freedom Riders. This is a
view from inside the Montgomery bus station.
In the upper right image, the seated Freedom Riders are, from L to R: David Fankhauser (reading a newspaper), Allen Carson (reading a book), David Myers, my colleague from Central State College, Pauline Knight (ticket in hand) and Franklin Hunt. Dr. King saw us off at the station.
Today, viewing the images of the Freedom Riders in the stations, I am amused that I was (pretending to be absorbed in) reading a newspaper.
TRAVELING THROUGH ALABAMA AND MISSISSIPPI
||After boarding the bus for Jackson, the bus pulled out into the massive police presence which was cordoning off the bus station. Leaving Montgomery, we traveled through rural Alabama with a State Highway patrol escort in front and behind. At each station we came to during the entire six hour trip to Jackson Mississippi, the police prevented us from disembarking and only persons with tickets were allowed off. Luckily, we had a rest room on the bus. When we crossed the state line from Alabama into Mississippi, the Mississippi State Police took up the guard patrol. Apparently, the news had spread through Mississippi as we began to see crowds of hostile whites at the stations we passed. As we approached the Jackson Trailways Bus Station, there was a large hostile crowd of whites cordoned away from the station itself, and a large show of police surrounded the bus as it stopped. Disembarking from the bus, we passed through a double column of police to get to the waiting rooms, the black Freedom Riders entered the "Whites Only" waiting room, and the two of us who were white (Dave Myers and myself) entered the "Colored" waiting room. Not surprisingly, the "Colored" waiting room was small, dingy, with wooden benches, very primitive compared with the spacious, well appointed white waiting room with cushioned seats. So much for "separate but equal..."|
ARRESTED IN JACKSON. MISSISSIPPI
||In the far left image, that is Larry Hunter being
arrested, Albert Lee Dunn has already been arrested
(leaning over to the left), I am seated pretending to read
and David Myers is behind me to the right.
I sat down on the bench in the "Colored" waiting room, and was soon approached by a policeman who announced: "Y'all have to move on." I asked why, and he responded with the same "Y'all have to move on." After I again asked why, he then announced "Y'all under arrest." Here is the arrest record from 28 May 1961.
INITIAL TIME IN JACKSON CITY JAIL
||We were funneled back out through the same police-line
gauntlet into waiting paddy wagons, and taken to jail. The
blacks were sent to the County Jail, and us sole two
whites to the City Jail. The 'accommodations' in these two
jails were strikingly different: the Jackson City Jail was
relatively modern, had a decent air circulation (not
air conditioning), while the Hines County Jail had all the
luxury of the 19th century. Blacks were house in the third
(top) floor and the intense heat was reported to be
(Here is a picture of the City Jail I took in 1989.) We two whites were placed in solitary confinement for the first 24 hours, but the next day, as additional whites had arrived on a second bus, we were moved into the "bull pen," a large double cell which had sixteen beds in bunks and a picnic-style table at which to eat. Some of the newly arrived white Freedom Riders were allowed to bring in books (yay! something to read !), and we were able to socialize, although we were never allowed to leave the cell for exercise, etc. The windows of the bull pen are the last three in the far third floor of this picture.
INTERVIEW BY WESTBROOK PEGLER
FREEDOM RIDERS FILL UP THE CITY JAIL'S "BULL PEN", WE BEGIN A HUNGER STRIKE
The bull pen continued to fill, and after about a week, was
filled to capacity. We were still hoping that Bobby Kennedy would
issue an injunction enforcing the Federal law, and ordering local
police not to interfere with interstate transportation. We decided
that more moral pressure could be brought if we embarked on a
hunger strike in jail. We stopped eating any food, and drank only
water. After five days of hunger strike, guards came in and told
us to get our things together, that we were being moved. It turned
out that we had been successful at filling both the city and
county jail to capacity, that they were getting bad press about
the hunger strike, and so they elected to move us to the
Mississippi Delta's infamous "Parchman Farm," the State
Penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi. This prison farm is widely
referred to in the Blues as "the County Farm," and is the subject
of the well-known folk song "Midnight Special." We were loaded
onto a gray bus with metal seats and bars on the windows and were
bussed the 140 miles into the delta to Parchman. I remember
entering through several high razor wire gates with watch towers.
Guards stood by with rifles, and prisoners labored in the thousand
acres of fields. I was actually looking forward to see what it
would be like to "chop cotton" the fields, clothed in black and
white prison garb, with the rifle-bearing guards on horseback
overseeing us. But that was not what was waiting for us.
|We were driven in our gray bus
into the inner sanctum of the penitentiary, to the Maximum
Security Unit (MSU). This is the building where death row
and the electric chair were housed, and where the most
violent and incorrigible prisoners were housed.
We were completely stripped, and given only underwear to wear: a tee shirt and undershorts. Our cells were arranged in a long row, all facing a single hallway with slit windows in the opposite wall about seven feet above the floor. What would have been the first cell was a shower. The whites were placed in the first few cells, the blacks the rest, and additional Freedom Riders housed on the other side of the wing of MSU.
In our cells, we were given a bible, an aluminum cup and a tooth brush. The cell measured 6 x 8 feet with a toilet and sink on the back wall, and a bunk bed. [Note in the image taken in 2011, the bunk beds are removed, and stainless commode/sink installed.] We were permitted one shower per week, and no mail was allowed. The policy in the maximum security block was to keep lights on 24 hours a day. The light fixture served a double purpose and allowed observation into the cells by the guards from the catwalk between the two rows of cells.
FREEDOM SONGS ARE CRUCIAL TO OUR SPIRITS
|We Shall Overcome
Michael Row Your Boat Ashore
My Dog Loves Your Dog
Let My People Go
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
This Little Light of Mine
If I Had a Hammer
Which Side Are You On ?
We Are Soldiers in the Army
Freedom Rider Special (Midnight Special)
|(See the little
Everybody Sing (Freedom)
We Shall not be Moved
Get Your Rights, Jack (tune of Hit the Road Jack)
Oh Mary don't you weep
If You Ever Go to Jackson.
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round
Come and Go With Me to That Land
Certainly, Certainly, Certainly Lord
I'm On My Way to Freedom Land
I'm So Glad
Woke This Morning With My Mind Staying On Freedom
This May Be the Last Time
We Shall Not Be Moved
Down By the Riverside
MATTRESSES ARE REMOVED
Our singing went on for hours and hours a day. Several times the
guards (affectionately known as "screws") ordered us to shut up,
which caused us to sing louder. Finally, the Warden came in and
said we had to stop singing, that it was bothering the cooks. This
was hilarious to us, since the cooks were black trustees who
clearly were getting a kick out of our spirit and defiance. He
announced that if we did not stop singing, that he would take away
our tooth brushes. We sang louder. Out went toothbrushes. We kept
singing. He ordered that our bibles be taken, we sang louder.
Bibles gone. If we didn't stop singing, he would have our
mattresses and bedding taken out. We sang with even more
gusto. They came to take the mattresses, and some prisoners who
tried to hold on to their mattresses had "wrist breakers" applied
to them. These are "handling" devices with a metal strap with a
leverage handle that tightens the strap around the wrist. The
combination of tightness and leverage makes it impossible to
resist its action, and has resulted in many a wrist to be broken
"SLEEPING" BARE SKIN ON STEEL PLATE
Unfortunately, during that day prior to our mattresses being
hauled out, I had removed my tee shirt. When my bedding was
removed, so was my tee shirt, leaving me in nothing by
undershorts. Understand that the bunk beds were constructed of 1/4
inch steel plates into which were drilled numerous 1 inch holes
for ventilation. Wearing only my briefs, lying with bare skin on
the cold perforated steel plate proved impossible to sleep. While
the days were hot, the nights were cold.
SCREENS REMOVED, PLAGUE OF INSECTS, THEN WE ARE DRENCHED WITH DDT AT 2 AM
|| We were still on hunger strike, and continued
singing our freedom songs. The guards became ever more
hostile and threatening, banging on our bars with billy
clubs. One night, just at dusk, workers came by and
removed the screens from all the windows. In Mississippi
in June, there are huge number of night insects and
especially voracious mosquitoes. Remember that the lights
are on in the cells 24 hours a day. Clouds of mosquitoes
were a kind of biological torture which none of us had
foreseen. We were asked if we would agree to stop our
singing, "or else." We kept singing. The insects came in
in droves, and we had no protection what-so-ever.
The "or else" came at the 2 AM shift change. A guard came in and said "Why, look at all them bugs! We're gonna hafta spray!" Shortly thereafter, we heard what sounded like a large diesel truck pull up outside the cell block, and what looked like a fire hose was passed in through on of the high windows. As the engine powered up outside, we were hit with a powerful spray of DDT. Being trapped in our cells with no protection, our bodies and every inch of our cells were drenched with the eye-stinging, skin-burning insecticide.
WARDEN IS VISIBLY SHAKEN
The next morning, the warden showed up again. He said we had
gotten off on the wrong foot, and that we should be able to work
something out. He smoked a pipe, and I saw that as he tried to
fill it just outside of my cell, he was shaking so badly that the
pipe tobacco was falling to the floor. Something seemed strange.
He said that we would be given back our mattresses, our bedding,
our bibles and our toothbrushes. In return, could we just try to
keep the singing down a little, and to limit the times during
which we sang?
DELEGATION FROM MINNESOTA INSPECTS CONDITIONS
Later that day, they started shuffling Freedom Riders around. It turned out that they moved all of the persons from Minnesota to the near end of the cell block, cells 2, 3 and 4. I was in 5. The reason for the change in tone now became apparent. A delegation sent by the governor of Minnesota had arrived to investigate conditions in the prison. They were brought in, and two guards prevented them from going past cell 4. From what I heard, I felt that the Minnesotans were minimizing the seriousness of the mistreatment we had received, for instance failing to mention the DDT spraying incident. I called over to one member of the delegation, suggesting that he tour the rest of the cell block and talk with the rest of the Freedom Riders. The guard said that was not allowed, and they had to limit their conversation with Minnesotans. I called to the delegation that I was sure that some of the other Freedom Riders would have information they should hear. The delegate said that he would have to report that the prison officials were uncooperative if they did not allow the delegation to interview all of the Freedom Riders about the conditions and the treatment of the Freedom Riders.
The Minnesota delegation was finally permitted to interview all
of the Freedom Riders. Some improvements in treatment
resulted. Besides getting the screens back on the windows and the
bedding as promised, we began to get some mail. However,
it was severely censored. I got one letter which it started
Dear David, then the entire body of the letter was cut out leaving
a large hole, with the closing good-bye remaining.
TWELVE DAYS OF HUNGER STRIKE ENDS
After 12 days of fasting, those of us on hunger strike halted our
fast under assurances that the justice Department was going to
take action to halt the arrests. It was at that point that I began
to "experience" the food in Parchman: Breakfast every morning was
black coffee strongly flavored with chicory, grits, biscuits and
blackstrap molasses. Lunch was generally some form of beans or
black-eyed peas boiled with pork gristle, served with cornbread.
In the evening, it was the same as lunch except it was cold. After
fasting for 12 days, I ate everything with gusto. I
discovered that if you pour the molasses on the biscuits in the
morning, by the afternoon, the biscuits "crisped up" inside,
making what passed for a crunchy sweet. The things we appreciate
when limited food is available...
UNCERTAINTY ABOUT RELEASE DATE
I had found that the aluminum cup we were given as our drinking
vessel would leave a gray line when rubbed on the cement wall. I
constructed a large calendar and illustrated a mural on the wall
using this cup. I had calculated that the 40 days (maximum time
before which bail must be posted) would be over on Friday July
7th. I expected to be bailed out on that day. I had heard
that if one weren't bailed out by 40 days, that one would have to
serve out a full 6 months in prison. July 7th came and went.
Saturday the 8th came and went. I was very depressed... Then, on
Sunday July 9th, The guards came in and said that I should get
ready to go, that I was being released. That was a joyous moment.
I was led to a room where I was given my street clothes back. As I
dressed, a guard who had seemed particularly virulent in his
attitude to us sidled up to me and quietly said that he hoped
there were no hard feelings. He said he was only doing his job,
didn't I understand, and that he didn't personally hate us. I
thought that was a very positive statement for him to say, and
confirmed one of the underlying principles of non-violent
resistance: that if we appeal to the humanness in each of us,
returning courtesy for hateful actions, that hearts can be
TRIP FROM JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI TO CINCINNATI, OHIO
Upon my release, I took the train from Jackson, Mississippi to
Cincinnati, Ohio, a very tense ride especially while I was still
in Mississippi. I was never more grateful to leave a state than
when the train passed from Mississippi into Tennessee, but even
then, I was in the South. When I arrived in Cincinnati, to my
astonishment, there was a huge welcoming crowd of local civil
rights people. Two hefty CORE members hoisted up me on their
shoulders and carried me through the great hall of Union Terminal.
Talk about culture shock!
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ENFORCES THE LAW
That summer, the Justice Department succeeded in getting the states to agree not to interfere with interstate travelers, and allow unrestricted, and thus we did accomplish the integration of public waiting rooms.
And don't we STILL have a long way to go before a person is valued for his person instead of his color, creed or religion?
1 Kasher, Steven, The Civil Rights
Movement, A photographic History, 1954-68, p. 20.
2 Ibid, p. 31.
3 Wilkenson, Brenda, The Civil Rights Movement, An Illustrated History, p. 82.
4 Kasher, p. 145.
5 Williams, Juan, Eyes on the Prize, America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, p. 12.
6 Williams, p. 144.
7 Kasher, p. 86.
8 Williams, p. 150.
9 Wilkenson, p. 115.
10 Wexler, Sanford, An Eyewitness of the Civil Rights Movement , p. 130
NOTE: I have been called to task (correctly, I might add) for not crediting the photographers who have taken these images of the Freedom Rides. I am eager to give credit to these individuals if you happen to know who took the pictures I have posted. Send me an email with the information, thanks.