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Eyes on the Prize
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The Desegregation of Interstate Travel (1960)

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Members of the "Washington Freedom Riders Committee" en route to Washington, D.C., hang signs from bus side windows to protest segregation, New York, NY, 1961.

In the months following John F. Kennedy's inauguration, civil rights activists were disappointed that the president did not introduce any new legislation on the issue. However, the Supreme Court had issued a ruling in December 1960 that interstate buses and bus terminals were required to integrate. This legal development inspired members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to ride Greyhound buses from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. The black and white volunteers, known as Freedom Riders, would find out whether the law would be enforced in the land of Jim Crow. CORE director James Farmer recalled, "What we had to do was to make it more dangerous politically for the federal government not to enforce federal law than it would be for them to enforce federal law... This was not civil disobedience really, because we would be merely doing what the Supreme Court said we had a right to do."

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