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Freedom Rides Photographs, 1961

To what extent did Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice become a reality for African Americans during the civil rights movement?

  • I can interpret primary sources related to Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice in the civil rights movement
  • I can explain how laws and policy, courts, and individuals and groups contributed to or pushed back against the quest for liberty, equality, and justice for African Americans.
  • I can create an argument using evidence from primary sources.
  • I can analyze issues in history to help find solutions to present-day challenges.

Building Context

Students played a prominent role in the civil rights movement. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed in 1960 as a way to bring more grassroots student efforts into the larger struggle for civil rights for African Americans. Early leaders include John Lewis, Diane Nash, and Marion Barry. Ella Baker, a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a key strategist and mentor for SNCC. Baker strongly believed that social change was best achieved through local action from rank and file members, rather than through influential leaders.

Freedom Rides photographs, 1961


A Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders was firebombed by an angry mob while in Anniston, Alabama, in 1961. Forced to evacuate, the passengers were then assaulted. (Credit: “Freedom Riders Bus Attack” by Federal Bureau of Investigation)


Freedom Riders Priscilla Stephens from CORE and Reverend Petty D. McKinney are shown after their arrest by the police in Tallahassee, Florida, in June 1961.

Comprehension and Analysis Questions

  1. Based on the photographs provided, what happened to the Freedom Riders?
  2. How did the nonviolent tactics of the Freedom Riders put them in more danger? Why do you think they chose this tactic?
  3. Across the country, the public learned about the violence as images of burning buses and beaten Freedom Riders were broadcast on television and printed in newspapers. How might this news coverage have affected the civil rights movement?