View Statement of Charles Anthony Person
On 4 May 1961, the freedom riders left Washington, D.C., in two buses and headed to New Orleans. Although they faced resistance and arrests in Virginia, it was not until the riders arrived in Rockhill, South Carolina, that they encountered violence. The beating of Lewis and another rider, coupled with the arrest of one participant for using a whites-only restroom, attracted widespread media coverage. In the days following the incident, the riders met King and other civil rights leaders in Atlanta for dinner. During this meeting, King whispered prophetically to Jet reporter Simeon Booker, who was covering the story, ‘‘You will never make it through Alabama’’ (Lewis, 140).
The ride continued to Anniston, Alabama, where, on 14 May, riders were met by a violent mob of over 100 people. Before the buses’ arrival, Anniston local authorities had given permission to the Ku Klux Klan to strike against the freedom riders without fear of arrest. As the ﬁrst bus pulled up, the driver yelled outside, ‘‘Well, boys, here they are. I brought you some niggers and nigger-lovers’’ (Arsenault, 143). One of the buses was ﬁrebombed, and its ﬂeeing passengers were forced into the angry white mob. The violence continued at the Birmingham terminal where Eugene ‘‘Bull’’ Connor’s police force offered no protection. Although the violence garnered national media attention, the series of attacks prompted James Farmer of CORE to end the campaign. The riders ﬂew to New Orleans, bringing to an end the ﬁrst Freedom Ride of the 1960s. See full Freedom Ride article.