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Mothers’ Day, May 14, 1961, as Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders and other passengers burns

In 1961, the Freedom Riders set out for the Deep South to defy Jim Crow laws and call for change.

The Riders’ efforts transformed the civil rights movement.

Raymond Arsenault is the author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

The book details how volunteers – both black and white – traveled to Mississippi and Alabama to fight segregation in transit systems.

Despite being backed by recent federal rulings that it was unconstitutional to segregate bus riders, the Freedom Riders met with obstinate resistance – as in Birmingham and Montgomery, where white supremacists attacked bus depots themselves.

In Freedom Riders, Arsenault details how the first Freedom Rides developed, from the personal level to the legal maneuvering involved.

Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and co-director of the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

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