World House Podcast: Episode 12 -John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and The Freedom Rides
A mob of racists beats Freedom Riders in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.A. This picture was reclaimed by the FBI from a local journalist who also was beaten and whose camera was smashed. Bull Connor, commissioner of public safety in Birmingham (check out Episode 11 for more info on Bull Connor), made an agreement with the Klan that the police would stay away from Birmingham’s bus terminal for fifteen minutes after the Freedom Riders arrived. This gave the White mob enough time to severely beat James Peck, and others, sending them to the hospital. (4 May 1961)
Tommy Langston, Birmingham Post-Herald/ Public domain
This week's episode focuses on two of the iconic civil rights movement leaders: John Lewis,
and Cordy Tindell Vivian
. Both men passed away on July 18, 2020, leaving behind an inspiring legacy of courage and civil service. Dr. Carson draws our attention to the early moments of their activism when John Lewis and C.T. Vivian participated and played a crucial role in the Freedom Rides
of May 1961. Initiated by the Congress of Racial Equality
, the Freedom Rides challenged segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals in the South.
In workshops on nonviolence
, led by James Lawson
, Lewis and Vivian - like many other young student activists in the 1960s - were trained in nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. Equipped with their commitment to racial justice and nonviolence, the activists embarked on the Freedom Rides from Washington D.C. to Jackson, Mississippi, knowing that they would face racist brutality.
Nonetheless, with the support of committed movement leaders, such as Diane Nash
, the Freedom Riders did not let violence deter them from their goal. They continued on their mission, determined to defy segregation in the South. This remarkable courage and sacrifice attracted extensive media attention, eventually forcing the Kennedy
administration to intervene in favor of the Freedom Riders.
Clayborne Carson, Liberation Curriculum