Biography

Jim Zwerg

Jim Zwerg

Freedom Rider Appleton, WI

Jim Zwerg was a 21-year-old exchange student from Beloit College in Wisconsin who became active in the Nashville sit-in movement after attending one of James Lawson's workshops on nonviolence. As one of the two whites selected for the May 17 Nashville Movement Freedom Ride, he expected that he would be targeted for violence as a "race traitor." On May 20, his predictions proved accurate when he was beaten savagely during the riot at the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station. Photographs of a bloodied, beaten Zwerg made headlines around the world.

"We will continue our journey one way or another. We are prepared to die," Zwerg told reporters from his hospital bed in St. Jude's Catholic Hospital. After the Freedom Rides, Zwerg worked as a United Church of Christ minister until 1975. Later, he worked as a personnel manager for IBM and at a hospice in Tucson, AZ, where he later retired. His close friendship with John Lewis is the subject of Ann Bausum's award winning book for young adults, Freedom Riders (1986).

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