From The Library Of 'Life'

Photos From 'Life' On The Freedom Riders' 50th Anniversary

Fifty years ago today, 13 activists piled on a bus headed south to test new laws against segregation. The group of "Freedom Riders" that left Washington, D.C., that day would be one of many to confront racial discrimination in public transportation.

They were met with violence much of the way; but in November of the same year, the Interstate Commerce Commission finally capitulated, ruling that anyone, regardless of race, could sit anywhere on buses or trains.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. (center) sees off a new group of Freedom Riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss., on May 24, 1961.
    Hide caption
    Martin Luther King Jr. (center) sees off a new group of Freedom Riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss., on May 24, 1961.
    Paul Schutzer/Life/Courtesy of 'Life'
  • In 1961, volunteers fill the Montgomery, Ala., home of King (left rear). In the foreground are college kids who, moved by King's message of racial equality, risked their lives as "Freedom Riders."
    Hide caption
    In 1961, volunteers fill the Montgomery, Ala., home of King (left rear). In the foreground are college kids who, moved by King's message of racial equality, risked their lives as "Freedom Riders."
    Paul Schutzer/Life/Courtesy of 'Life'
  • The rides were highly organized; every volunteer who stepped aboard a bus traveling through the South received training in constitutional law and the methods of civil disobedience, but also grave warnings about the danger they faced.
    Hide caption
    The rides were highly organized; every volunteer who stepped aboard a bus traveling through the South received training in constitutional law and the methods of civil disobedience, but also grave warnings about the danger they faced.
    Paul Schutzer/Life/Courtesy of 'Life'
  • Life photographer Paul Schutzer caught up with Freedom Riders in Alabama, where they were met with antagonism and violence. According to Life, 12 riders required hospitalization; in many cases, the local hospitals simply refused to treat them.
    Hide caption
    Life photographer Paul Schutzer caught up with Freedom Riders in Alabama, where they were met with antagonism and violence. According to Life, 12 riders required hospitalization; in many cases, the local hospitals simply refused to treat them.
    Paul Schutzer/Life/Courtesy of 'Life'
  • A few years prior, events like the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage paved the way to Freedom Rides. Though young people on the Freedom Rides would later become the face of the civil rights movement, women like these — and Rosa Parks — kicked off the Montgomery Bus Boycott and provided a spiritual backbone.
    Hide caption
    A few years prior, events like the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage paved the way to Freedom Rides. Though young people on the Freedom Rides would later become the face of the civil rights movement, women like these — and Rosa Parks — kicked off the Montgomery Bus Boycott and provided a spiritual backbone.
    Paul Schutzer/Life/Courtesy of 'Life'
  • King (center) and his colleagues speak to the press at a voter-registration march from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., in 1966.
    Hide caption
    King (center) and his colleagues speak to the press at a voter-registration march from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., in 1966.
    Paul Schutzer/Life/Courtesy of 'Life'

1 of 6

View slideshow i

Life photographer Paul Schutzer was still early in his career when he was hired to document events of the civil rights movement — including the Freedom Riders. Today, Life has several commemorative galleries — never-before seen photos of the Freedom Riders movement and the bigger movement that surrounded it.

And NPR's jazz blog is commemorating those Freedom Riders today with a playlist.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.