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Book 323.092 ARS 1 1
Book 323.092 ARS 1 1

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The saga of the Freedom Rides is an improbable, almost unbelievable story. In the course of six months in 1961, four hundred and fifty Freedom Riders expanded the realm of the possible in American politics, redefining the limits of dissent and setting the stage for the civil rights movement. In this new version of his encyclopedic Freedom Riders, Raymond Arsenault offers a significantly condensed and tautly written account. With characters and plot lines rivaling those of the most imaginative fiction, this is a tale of heroic sacrifice and unexpected triumph. Arsenault recounts how a group of volunteers--blacks and whites--came together to travel from Washington DC through the Deep South, defying Jim Crow laws in buses and terminals and putting their lives on the line for racial justice. News photographers captured the violence in Montgomery, shocking the nation and sparking a crisis in the Kennedy administration. Here are the key players--their fears and courage, their determination and second thoughts, and the agonizing choices they faced as they took on Jim Crow--and triumphed.

Winner of the Owsley Prize

Publication is timed to coincide with the airing of the American Experience miniseries documenting the Freedom Rides

"Arsenault brings vividly to life a defining moment in modern American history."
--Eric Foner, The New York Times Book Review

"Authoritative, compelling history."
--William Grimes, The New York Times

"For those interested in understanding 20th-century America, this is an essential book."
--Roger Wilkins, Washington Post Book World

"Arsenault's record of strategy sessions, church vigils, bloody assaults, mass arrests, political maneuverings and personal anguish captures the mood and the turmoil, the excitement and the confusion of the movement and the time."
--Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe

Author Notes

Raymond Arsenault is John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

Reviews 2

Choice Review

Drawing on a mountain of sources, Arsenault (Univ. of South Florida) has written a top-notch study of the freedom rides. His description of this dramatic protest for racial equality, which the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) initiated in May 1961, is extremely well researched and reads like a labor of love. In addition to exploring a vast array of new aspects of the rides, Arsenault argues that they played a much larger role in the modern struggle for civil rights than most studies of the era suggest. Most broadly, Arsenault asserts that the freedom rides "expanded the realm of the possible in American political and social insurgency" and redefined the limits of "individual and collective action." In 1998, after Bill Clinton presented CORE director James Farmer with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Farmer remarked that he worried that "people would forget" him and his work. Arsenault's study makes sure that the courageous actions of Farmer and the 436 men and women who defied the southern way of life and stood up for their rights as Americans by daring to ride through the South in a desegregated manner will not be forgotten. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. P. B. Levy York College of Pennsylvania

Library Journal Review

Arsenault (history, Univ. of South Florida; Jacksonville: The Consolidation Story, from Civil Rights to the Jaguars) deftly weaves an intricate narrative of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the civil rights effort by black and white volunteers to enforce the integration of interstate buses and travel facilities throughout the Deep South. Narrating the origins, the violent and turbulent rides themselves, the litigation, and the legacy, this work is similar, in its skillful crafting, to James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom on the Civil War. Arsenault recounts the dynamics of the civil rights organizations that eventually banded together to sustain the Freedom Rides, as well as the individual riders who suffered mob beatings and prison sentences. The interplay of the riders with municipal and state leaders, as well as with the Kennedys and the FBI at the federal level, is skillfully portrayed. The 500 pages are justified when one considers the near inexhaustible courage of the freedom riders and the significance of the national crisis they forced. For a more concise, thesis-driven history of the Freedom Rides, consider David Niven's The Politics of Injustice: The Kennedys, the Freedom Rides, and the Electoral Consequences of a Moral Compromise. Freedom Riders will find avid readership among patrons of academic collections.-Jim Hahn, Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Author's Notep. xiii
Introductionp. 3
1 You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crowp. 13
2 Beside the Weary Roadp. 43
3 Hallelujah! I'm A-Travelin'p. 61
4 Alabama Boundp. 93
5 Get on Board, Little Childrenp. 125
6 If You Miss Me from the Back of the Busp. 148
7 Freedom's Coming and It Won't Be Longp. 183
8 Ain't Gonna Let No Jail House Turn Me 'Roundp. 214
9 Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedomp. 246
10 Oh, Freedomp. 263
Epilogue: Glory Boundp. 287
Note on Sourcesp. 303