BLACK VOICES

Tracking Down The Freedom Riders 50 Years Later

08/09/2011 09:27 am ET | Updated Oct 09, 2011

Hank Thomas walked up the steps of the Greyhound bus on a sunny May 4, 1961. As he surveyed its drab, blue-gray interior, the lanky 19-year-old African-American student from Howard University never imagined he soon would come close to meeting his end on its floor.

He was part of the Freedom Rides organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia, which made racial segregation illegal in interstate bus stations, restaurants, bathrooms and on buses. CORE planned to make sure the court ruling was enforced by riding buses through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, ending the tour with a rally in New Orleans.

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