Freedom rider: 'It was a long fight, but justice prevailed' - FOX 13 News

Freedom rider: 'It was a long fight, but justice prevailed'

Posted: Updated:
  • Freedom rider: 'It was a long fight, but justice prevailed'More>>

  • Freedom Riders defied injustice, changed history

    Freedom Riders defied injustice, changed history

    Fifty years ago, a fearless couple took a stand against a shameful and outrageous injustice, risking their lives to stand against segregation in the south. Now they are being honored for their part in changing American...
    Fifty years ago, a fearless couple took a stand against a shameful and outrageous injustice, risking their lives to stand against segregation in the south. Now they are being honored for their part in changing American...
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

They stepped off transit buses into angry mobs, death threats, and beatings. Calling themselves 'Freedom Riders,' young black and white social activists traveled into the deep south together to expose racial segregation.

The U.S. Supreme Court had banned segregated interstate buses and public facilities in 1946 and again in 1960. But southern states resisted, and arrested black people who crossed the whites-only color line.

FOX 13's Denise White spoke with Freedom Rider Ernest Patton recently in Tampa. He travels the country, speaking to church groups about the role he played in America's civil rights history.

"The Freedom Rides brought together people of different races, religions, and cultures from across the country," he explained.

Patton was 21 years old and a student at Tennessee State University when he first signed up in 1960. First, he said, he attended workshops on how to meet mob violence with non-violence.

"Learning how to fall on the ground, learning how to protect ourselves, and most of all not to hit back because people who were punishing us and doing these things to us were our brothers and sisters. Be it black or white, we had to love them as we loved ourselves," Patton recalled.

On May 4, 1961, 13 black and white Freedom Riders rode transit buses from Washington D.C. to a rally in New Orleans. When the Greyhound bus stopped in Anniston, Alabama, it was firebombed. Many were almost killed.

A second group out of Nashville, Tennessee, under National Guard escort, replaced them. Patton was in that group. During the trip south, they stopped in Jackson, Mississippi and sat down in the whites-only section at the bus station.

"We got off the bus, walked through the front door of the Jackson Greyhound bus station that says 'white,' we sat down, then a police officer came over and said you're under arrest for disorderly conduct."

They were sent to Parchman State Prison. But as other Freedom Riders were taken to jail, more took their place.

Throughout the south, jails were filling up with Freedom Riders. Their efforts sped up Dr. Martin Luther King's civil rights movement.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination passed.

"It was a long fight, but justice prevailed," Patton added.

Powered by WorldNow

FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
3213 West Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, Florida 33609
Main: (813) 876-1313
Newsroom: (813) 870-9630
Fax: (813) 871-3135

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices