The Freedom Rides

Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round
Songwriter: Traditional, adapted by the Albany Movement
Performed by: The Freedom Singers

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Singing helped the Freedom Riders in the face of great danger. Following one impromptu songwriter on the bus, the Freedom Riders sang as they entered Jackson, Mississippi:

I'm taking a ride on the Greyhound bus line,
I'm a riding the front seat to Jackson this time.
Hallelujah, I'm a-travelin',
Hallelujah, ain't it fine?
Hallelujah, I'm a-travelin'
Down Freedom's main line.

In Jackson, the Freedom Riders were arrested and jailed. Rider James Farmer: "The prison officials wanted us to stop singing, because they were afraid our spirit would become contagious and the other prisoners would become Freedom Riders as a result of our singing." The guards threatened to take away the mattresses -- their only luxury in a steel cell -- if they continued to sing.

As Farmer recalled, one Freedom Rider called for the guards. "He said, 'Come get my mattress. I'll keep my soul.' And everybody started singing, Ain't gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me round, turn me round...

"They came in and took the mattresses away and people sang as they had never sung before. We thought we were winning the battle; they were on the run."

For more on music and the movement, read comments by Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Music courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, folkways.


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