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The Journey of Reconciliation was also[1] called "First Freedom Ride" and was a form of nonviolent direct action to challenge state segregation laws on interstate buses in the Southern United States.[2] Bayard Rustin and 18 other men and women were the early organizers of the two-week journey that began on April 9, 1947. It was seen as inspiring the later Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement from May 1961 onward. James Peck, one of the white participants, also took part in the Freedom Ride of May 1961.

Journey of Reconciliation
Part of the Civil Rights Movement
The Journey of Reconciliation, 1947..jpg
DateApril 9–23, 1947
Resulted inInconclusive
Parties to the civil conflict
State police
Lead figures

Frances Bergman Genevieve Hughes Walter Bergman

Mae Frances Moultrie
Arrests, etc
Arrests: 16



Sixteen men from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) took part, eight white and eight black, including the organizers, white Methodist minister George Houser of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and CORE and black Quaker Bayard Rustin of FOR and the American Friends Service Committee.[3] The other black participants were Chicago musician Dennis Banks; Andrew Johnson, a student from Cincinnati; New York attorney Conrad Lynn; Wallace Nelson, a freelance lecturer; Eugene Stanley of North Carolina A&T College; William Worthy of the New York Council for a Permanent FEPC; and Nathan Wright, a church social worker from Cincinnati. The other white participants were North Carolina ministers Louis Adams and Ernest Bromley; Joseph Felmet of the Southern Workers Defense League; Homer Jack, executive secretary of the Chicago Council Against Racial and Religious Discrimination; James Peck, editor of the Workers Defense League News Bulletin; Worth Randle, a Cincinnati biologist; and radical pacifist Igal Roodenko.[4]

The participants planned to ride public transportation starting in Washington D.C., went through Richmond, and stopped in Petersburg. The next day the went through Raleigh, and once they hit Durham, the bus driver called the police on Rustin who refused to move to the back of the bus. The police did nothing, and all that happened was the bus was delayed for 45 minutes while the bus driver and Rustin refused to both move. During the two-week trip, African Americans continued to sit in front, white Americans sat in back, or sometimes side-by-side, all in violation of current state laws which required passengers to practice segregated seating in buses. The day after the bus driver called the police on Rustin, the group of eight white men and eight black men met with Intercollegiate Council for Religion in Life, and attended church services. April 13th, 4 of the men were arrested, 2 black men for not giving up their seat, and 2 white men for defending the 2 black men. James Peck went to pay their bonds, and was hit by a taxi driver in the head (a hate crime).[5] Racial tension began to grow as the journey went on. Martin Watkins, a veteran was beaten by a group of taxi drivers for speaking to an African American women at a bus stop. When the Greyhound bus arrived in Alabama, it had to pass the bus station due to 200 or more angry white people surrounding the bus in attempts to stop the first freedom ride.[6] The tires of the bus blew out and the white mob threw a bomb into it, causing the bus to burst into flames after everyone in it had escaped. After they left the bus, they were confronted by the white mob who beat them. The Journey of Reconciliation continued using a second bus, and then returned to Washington D.C. After all of the violence and bloodshed which had occurred, CORE had trouble finding bus drivers who were willing to support subsequent freedom rides.

In May 1947, the 2 black men and 2 white men who had been arrested earlier in the bus ride faced charges afterwards and did not win appealing their sentences. On March 21, 1949, Rustin and the 2 white men lost at the courthouse in Hillsborough and were sent to segregated chain gangs.[7]

They were supported by the recent 1946 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, which prohibited segregation in interstate travel as unconstitutional, by putting "an undue burden on commerce." The Southern states were refusing to enforce the Court's decision. Based on consultation, the protesters limited their direct action to the Upper South, where the risk of violence was not as high as in the Deep South.[8]

The riders suffered several arrests, notably in North Carolina. Judge Henry Whitfield expressed his distaste for the white men involved:

"It's about time you Jews from New York learned that you can't come down here bringing your niggers with you to upset the customs of the South. Just to teach you a lesson, I gave your black boys thirty days [on a chain gang], and I give you ninety."[9]

The NAACP and Thurgood Marshall had reservations about the use of direct action, expecting to provoke much violence with little progress toward civil rights. The NAACP did offer a limited amount of legal help for those arrested. Bayard Rustin believed that the Journey of Reconciliation, as well as other actions challenging segregation in these years, contributed to the eventual ruling of the US Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. It ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional and ordered them ended.[2]

Women's Involvement:

Frances Bergman and Genevieve Hughes were the only women who took part in the protest, despite the beliefs of a number of men involved that this was not an activity in which women could participate. Hughes was a white CORE staffer, and one of the people who was beaten during the Alabama violence. [10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Journey of Reconciliation, 1947 | NCpedia". Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "The First Freedom Ride: Bayard Rustin On His Work With CORE". History Matters. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  3. ^ Meier, August; Rudwick, Elliott (1969). "The First Freedom Ride". Phylon. 30 (3): 213–222. doi:10.2307/273469. JSTOR 273469.
  4. ^ Bayard Rustin and George Houser (1947), "We Challenged Jim Crow", a report prepared for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Fellowship of Reconciliation; published in Fellowship, April 1947. Reprinted from Down the Line, the collected writings of Bayard Rustin, Quadrangle Books, 1971. Retrieved from Archived February 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, March 12, 2012.
  5. ^ "Journey of Reconciliation, 1947 | NCpedia". Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  6. ^ Editors, History com. "Freedom Riders". HISTORY. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  7. ^ "Journey of Reconciliation, 1947 | NCpedia". Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  8. ^ Robin Washington, "The History behind 'You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow!' " Archived September 8, 2012, at, New Hampshire Public Television, 1995, accessed April 26, 2010
  9. ^ Arsenault, Raymond (2006). Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle For Racial Justice. Oxford University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-19-513674-6.
  10. ^ Pierce, Peter (May 1, 1994). "Narcotic Entanglements: Recent Works of Australian Literary Criticism". Australian Literary Studies. doi:10.20314/als.efb5ba69f9. ISSN 0004-9697.


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