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Edward Norval "Ed" Blankenheim (March 16, 1934 – September 26, 2004) was an American civil rights activist and one of the original 13 Freedom Riders who rode Greyhound buses in 1961 as part of the Civil Rights Movement, in an effort to desegregate transit systems.[1][2]

Ed Blankenheim
Born(1934-03-16)March 16, 1934
DiedSeptember 26, 2004(2004-09-26) (aged 70)
Known forCivil rights activist


Blankenheim was born on March 16, 1934 in Lake Benton, Minnesota. He moved with his family to Chicago at age 10.[2] He served in the US Marine Corps in the Korean War[3] and observed Southern racism during his time in the Corps.[2]

A Greyhound bus during the 1950s, similar to the ones that the Freedom Riders would have traveled on.

While studying chemistry at the University of Arizona, he became involved with the Civil Rights Movement, and joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Ed was one of the few white people who participated in local civil rights activities. He started out by becoming involved with NAACP Youth Council in Tucson, Arizona and later became a leader for a division of CORE known as Students for Equality.[4] In 1961, thirteen civil rights workers boarded buses to test the United States Supreme Court ruling Boynton v. Virginia (1960) that outlawed segregation in all interstate public facilities.[5] The objective was to travel on interstate buses into the southern United States practicing non-violent protests that challenged the practice of Jim Crow travel laws. The participants encountered violent protests the further south they traveled and endured countless violent actions, threats, beatings, and even the risk of death every time they traveled to a new bus station.[6]

During the journey and upon arriving in Anniston, Alabama an angry mob attacked the Greyhound bus. The mob firebombed the bus, but the passengers managed to escape. The riders were regrouped by the mob and severely beaten. Ed was hit in the face with a tire iron and lost several teeth.[3] Police looked away as the riders were severely beaten by the angry mob. Facing danger, injury, and death Ed managed to survive the attack.

He was interviewed on National Public Radio in 2001 on the 40th anniversary of the freedom rides.[7] That year he rode on a bus to recreate the first freedom ride, but this time was welcomed as a hero, in contrast to the beatings and bus burning of 1961. He and his wife Nancy had one son and two daughters.[2]

He died on September 26, 2004.[2]


  1. ^ "Roster of Freedom Riders". American Experience, PBS.
  2. ^ a b c d e Richard Knee (September 27, 2004). "Freedom rider Ed Blankenheim dies at 70". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Archived from the original on 2004-12-20. Retrieved 2011-04-08. Edward Norval Blankenheim was born March 16, 1934, in Lake Benton, Minn., and moved with his family to Chicago at age 10. At 15, according to Pam Blankenheim, he lied about his age to join the Marine Corps, going first to Paris Island, S.C., and then to Camp Lejeune. ...
  3. ^ a b Buchanan
  4. ^ Arsenault, page 102
  5. ^ "Freedom Riders' Foundation - San Francisco, CA".
  6. ^ The Freedom Riders, Congress on Racial Equality
  7. ^ Raymond Arsenault (2006). Freedom Riders: 1961 and the struggle for racial justice. Oxford University Press. p. 608. ISBN 978-0-19-513674-6.

Further readingEdit

  • Arsenault, Raymond. Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print. Page 102.

External linksEdit