This week on From the Vault we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides that began in May of 1961. The Freedom Rides were an organized effort by Civil Rights activists to ride interstate buses to test two Supreme Court rulings: Boynton vs. Virginia, which prohibited racial segregation in restaurants and waiting rooms of bus terminals that crossed state lines, and Sarah Keys vs. Carolina Coach Company, which outlawed discrimination in interstate bus travel.
We begin with a 1960 conversation between legendary KPFA Public Affairs Director Elsa Knight Thompson and Civil Rights activist James Farmer, one of the co-founders of The Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.); this group helped organize and sponsor not only the Freedom Rides of 1961, but also the Sit-In Movement that began in 1960 at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. Farmer and Thompson discuss the early non-violent campaign that would permeate the Civil Rights Movement, led by himself and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, John Lewis – first president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Roy Wilkins – Executive Director of the NAACP, and labor leader A. Phillip Randolph – Executive Director of the National Urban League. Then we turn our attention to another historic recording: Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Field Secretary Matthew Jones reflecting on his role in the Civil Rights Movement, including the Sit-In Movement, the Freedom Rides, and later the voter registration drive leading up to the 1964 Presidential election.
From the Vault is presented through the Pacifica Radio Archives Preservation and Access Project, funded in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, past grants from the Grammy Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the American Archive funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with the generous support of Pacifica Radio Listeners.
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