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david orr well james farmer came to core out of that house just tradition fellowship of reconciliation that goes back to war one influenced by the gandhi and movement and all of these individuals so farmers juan bombard ralston there's another i wanted to take these tactics and prove that they can work in a in that particular race relations and that had the goal since the founding of corridor in the nineteen forties to try to demonstrate that non violent tactics could actually be effective and bring about changes and race relations but all that work then and the north except for that nineteen forty seven ride whether it's a
journey of reconciliation and on so here we get to the nineteen fifties and we see martin luther king in montgomery becoming a major figure on the national scene because in montgomery on some of these tactics and nonviolent tactics are used her particular the boycott and king advocates gandhi and principles and and he he becomes a major figure so i think from the point of view of james farmer in court said we're the organization that should have a quarter of that because we came out of that our pacifist gandhi and tradition we understand those tactics better than any other group a but yet we have not really had an impact in a cell also the freedom rides was really necessary
kind of approach are four for core to demonstrate that it was the organization uniquely able tool to use non violent tactics and and i and i think that it served its purpose that that the freedom rides really did bring court to vote center of public attention for at least on moments after the world has going forward this tuesday is they know not done too much back on the court which he has before lies that i've courted and where causes are civil rights organizations and the core idea is that
if you don't know it you feel it or you know and but because that is be a household name but you know we're a core was hit age sixty one so when congress of racial equality compared with the end of lasik he was just a pretty minor group it had chapter yours in some cities in a minority a lot of those chapters are predominantly white and it didn't really have very much impact in the south and in court on a national level really hadn't done any significant on conditions on and civil rights ombudsman attracted any attention since nineteen forty seven so so core needed to do something to have to demonstrate that it really deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with him double a cpa or
sclc or martin luther king and i think james farmer also on a personal level and understood that he probably knew more about the the principles underlying the nonviolent campaign in the south than martin luther king did he had a background that went back into the nineteen forties indeed in the nineteen thirties when african americans where we're learning more about the county and ideas so amped so for james farmer this was a way of saying i need to be brought into the discussions at the national level about how the civil rights campaign was going to be conducted because some irish musician has has a unique history that and bringing a new perspective to those discussions
and then the freedom rides the freedom rides to be a demonstration that course the idea is really where applicable to the problem itself that that just ers martin luther king in sclc or the end of lasik he might vocalize a campaign court could mobilize its own campaign another in a very different way and and actually surprise some of the larger groups boy capturing the initiative on this key issue of the right to travel in interstate commerce coach over here
he has this you know oh jesus well part of the king was not eager to join the freedom rides it was remarkably cautious during this time you know he's so he's getting describe him in the press as the american gandhi but he's actually never done any civil disobedience there has been arrested but not for the kind of self conscious civil disobedience that job say corps is familiar with where you actually go in with the intention of being arrested so some are making is kind of put on the spot when the framers comfort to tell you know he sees himself as a a major proponent
gandhi and nonviolence they want to actually practice it in a way that he feels very reluctant to join tom despite an m and this is true in the koran well was far more aware of the most of the freedom riders of what they would face of alabama heat he had been in montgomery he understood the situation there he understood the climate his house had been bombed he had he understood the level of violence and an montgomery and and birmingham also so i think king was was wary of doing things too fast here is the criticism from people around him is that he had just been too cautious at the
montgomery but he had good reason for being cautious he understood what was at stake and he also understood on a personal level that he had convictions on on his record and then one of the things that i had caused him great problems in nineteen sixty was the fact that violating his a probation would get him a heavier sounds so i'm like the freedom riders who might come down and i'll be facing certain charges because of trespass he would face additional charges because he had these arm over charges that he was still on probation for soul searching epperson reasons for not wanting to join them and but i but i think he he basically understood that they were going to face some pretty heavy violence and obama
for me now we want to see this now it's c season is a very was a time in our nation well i think the the pictures of the burning bus song did have a great impact on it brought the freedom ride to national attention a chorus sound got the attention of the federal government and the justice department but it but i think it's easy also to overestimate the reaction because and nothing really happened in terms of federal intervention at that point when the the
idea was still that we hope that we can contain this issue and and so what dr alabama authorities take care of it on that was certainly the perspective approach kennedy administration oh yeah this massive rally that he's still you know one uphold that they haven't done well guyot i think that one of the things that fed into the response so after the bus burning was something that often happened in the struggle for civil rights and that is that there was a tendency not simply tuned to blame the people responsible for the violence they are people who have tried to kill people on the bus
but to blame the protestors for provoking you know well why did you provoke this sound violent response on the part of the segregationists now as if exercising your rights was a provocation rather than something something that everyone should have the right to do say you know one of the questions that happens is that is that the foreign press as our ages playing we're human beings you know so
volvo and forty oh jesus yes i think the general attitude among white americans still in nineteen sixty one as we wish this issue which is go away it's an embarrassment to the country it's getting terrible press internationally and of course there's the concern about the america's image abroad but there is an engagement and a sense that something wrong is happening to african americans in the cell that it is wrong to segregate people and particularly interstate commerce that this is not a matter of state law this is a matter that the federal government has the right to iowa to intervene i am so so i think that the the bus burning needs to be seen as it was eight years of terrible act oh to happen and it could have been
much worse much more deadly on but unfortunately it was not the the actor can lead to the kind of federal intervention which were prevented the violence that happened subsequently so it is ozone even worse you know that yes certainly the idea of troublemakers of outside agitators causing the problem is this something that that ran through all of the events fifties and early nineteen sixties on hand and this was particularly true when you have this group of freedom riders coming into the sub all and and i think ford for most americans there was a sense why are they doing
this why why why are they provoking this violence as opposed to a strong sense of outrage against the perpetrators of violence that word again they're a wonderful result but it didn't happen just to know that that would've been it was necessary to prevent this from happening happening again but instead you have this fairly muted response to operate quickly that that could've been even worse news on this feeling that the name is call from from the other people that that is ok yes and i think that that was perhaps the predominant ok stephen the one of the responses
to that burning up of a bus in anniston on was that they should just call this off but this is not apparent that the violence was something that should not have happened but it would not have happened if it had not been provoked by the demonstrators coming into the cell so so i think that rather than getting the kind of rage that writers wanted and expected this is something that shouldn't happen in america instead there was i think a much more restrained response of basically saying that now you've proven your point on let the justice system resolve this maybe get a acc a new interstate commerce commission ruling that moved around guarantee these rights in the future but you gotta stop this right now because it's causing problems
well the nashville student movement were is a unique part of the sudden movement because the national students had been training for our citizens they had gone through the workshops with james lawson day had been introduced to gandhi and ideas they were primed they were they were when they staged sit ins in a national there were the best organized and spike in the south and they were sustained that one of the first ones that achieved a major victory in achieving desegregation in him many of the downtown lunch counters so are the national students hadn't had a sense that they were they were doing something special and then that they had created a movement that was was very very strong and very very disciplined and very committed to the basic ideas of the guardian resistance so long so for them
the freedom rides was with both an expression of the kinds of things that they had wanted to do they had tried to do something similar in rock hill south carolina i am the freedom rides was that was something that they saw they needed to sustain that if you allowed a segregationist to defeat the movement by by showing that violence really does intimidate black demonstrators were for pro civil rights demonstrators then violence i would always worry because of that kind of violence was always ready to be used against saddam demonstrations they found that out in nashville but they had overcome by so and so i think for them it was a challenge and looking at her
but there is there something that the sport especially a different way and one of the things that is really crucial about what the national statistic is and at this crucial point in the movement is that the violence against the initial group of freedom riders as we all know now it could've been much worse that they they couldn't kill the current and lots of killings and when we compare this to what was going on in south africa at the same time you know with the sharp cold in nineteen sixty and how that changed the course of a very similar movement to what was going on in the united states and the long term consequences of that i think we can see that we the freedom ride campaign if it had gone in a different way that had been repressed by violence of people have been killed in
that it calls the movement too to change its basic strategy and that things could've been very very different in the united states i think we're very very fortunate that the the freedom ride campaign was was first of all that the violence was more limited that it did people were not killed but secondly that ultimately they were sustained they proved that nonviolence was an effective tactic to overcome the jim crow system because of that lesson haven't been delivered know the movement would've taken a very different course waiting well i i think that if the national students hadn't decided to continue the right it would have proven that violence works in a band that's an effective tool to repress the movement
and then that would've done on a chaos setback and many voters said it would've been it would've undermined the credibility of nonviolent tactics restore it would've forced the movement to prefer yourself and it's hard to see how you would have a movement and the deep south and the rulers of the deep south to this ancient extent that we we get so the voting rights issue when they've been confronted the way it was so all this indicates that that this was a turning point that's how that ended in terms of nonviolence and in terms of the ability to confront segregation at its strongest point things would've been quite different this
is omar with the king is trying to convince bobby kennedy that this is this is a real crisis that people are going to get killed but they're trapped inside a church there's a mob outside unless the federal government acts that he's going to be responsible for the deaths of many people and the moniker tenderness this time is no he's trying to keep the people caught call in the church and at one point he actually walks through the mob so he he understands that it is his responsibility to our to show bravery to show that he's not going to be intimidated but he now is that that this is a situation that could very rapidly deteriorated and and
somebody had thrown a fire bomb into the church and that we would have had a massacre so so this was something that it had to convey to robert kennedy who i think that this state still does not understand what he's up against and it still does not understand that that this is a part of the country that is in the grip of terrorism and a segregationist harrison and he still thinks of it as something that will you know that these are you know some people are these politicians who helped get his brother liked you know he had to learn to work with them and so he still has the sense that the southerners are like the senators that he deals were on but what he doesn't understand is the extension which all these people were complicit complicity and a kind of racial terrorism that was
sour and deny to the entire region that once once you allowed the violent groups to dominate the situation is that as they did in birmingham and montgomery you know and then you you've really lost control as well as the government and that and i think that i am in alabama there was an a feeling among many whites and it was expressed on the statements of the governor that even though we personally did not protests appeared in this violence we kind of understood what was going on and if it hadn't been for these outside agitators they're they're the ones responsible for the violence so there was that tendency to just put all the blame on on the demonstrators and i'm kind of giveaways of the eye to work
to the white segregationists who were causing the violence a little more than just get a feeling for the real sense is that this is the fact that the you know in that situation so i think when you look at the footage of king and alan fred shuttlesworth in and other people in that church you can't help but understand that they understood that this was a rape potentially potentially disastrous
to the boat and king understood that this was a situation a computer right with disastrous consequences and they probably more than any other period of their lives understood that but all these people in the church where their lives were at stake and and they needed to condense the kennedy administration that does something needed to be done they needed help there was just no way they could resolve this situation on their own power so this was a home i think the crucial turning point for the movement because they had to show that their leadership than something they had to show that their sense of faith and non violent tactics could have an impact on that could actually succeed in
saving these people in the church they had to convince these people that there was a federal government that was capable of supporting them in their caucus and ben that was still in doubt i mean it was not at all clear that the kennedy administration would take the risk of intervening on in montgomery when they asked yeah yeah and clapping humming you know why is our happiness well you can imagine the sense of relief at all of these people in the church they've been in there for most of the night they have understood that there is a small the outside they haven't ventured out
American Experience
Freedom Riders
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Interview with Clayborne Carson, 2 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Clayborne Carson is an African-American professor of history at Stanford University, and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.
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American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, segregation, activism, students
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Chicago: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with Clayborne Carson, 2 of 4,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 9, 2020,
MLA: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with Clayborne Carson, 2 of 4.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 9, 2020. <>.
APA: American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with Clayborne Carson, 2 of 4. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from