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one two three four five six seven the bureau's the first information that came to just for what was a form of press release and the this issue has been raised to sometimes that i went back and researched it the press release was indirectly to ed goffman's office nano jim former mayor of the letter the cover is so it went with a press release to a government office and so we read it but in the press the attorney general on the press before he knew that the press release was interrupted the justices form before before the free riders left simeon booker who was working for johnson publications jet and ebony i came in to see its original usa have a
conversation and he expressed grave concern about the safety of the free riders and his own safety and deter joined in his own number and my number to call in case there were difficulties beyond that i don't think there was any contact or notification so there is always a little water pouring a move on another well i didn't and it you know it was something that only a few days between the town the press release came out and and the rides and again i haven't seen a press release and long time but but the first time i think there was a real concentration on it was when simeon booker came to see attorney general and done it i don't know how far advanced and was
literally was right on the cusp of their departure and them and i don't think that there have been no i know there have not been conversations between attorney jon burge marshall and so reiss division are john doe or who was in the civil rights division until simeon gay man and i bob talk to both to both burke and john about it but only to say samir had been in and now in well maybe the gym farmer had been in touch with harris wofford am white house but the tonnage over nothing from irs nor did i we knew with her and once it began of course involve press reports of work so what was happening there was an incident
city miller came from simeon booker a one hour press reports of trouble because retracted and it'll be a few days before you get an npr report on that but mu to the extent that the attorney general personally track it was largely to the press night well maybe a court martial i'm john doerr on their own independently were driving at more closely but there was one incident since a one incident of violence that was rather serious that i don't mean that any attack was not serious but it was amazing that they made as little news as we went through the upper south
because you know you would get you would have thought that the towns where they were stopping the big crowds out to me and to protest and to threaten and to intimidate on shows not dated a tracking by its original about me my guess is the court martial and john doe are both through the fbi field offices you may have heard something about it well very little there was very little press on orion's if there were an incident and there were incidents
and somebody was attacked somebody was arrested then there would be a local news report if you think about perhaps it would show borscht and post colonial times beyond that as for the attorney general and his office were concerned there was no tracking in the store rights division that well may have been the work when john doar track on regular basis pawn and so far the attorney general's concern insofar as i was concerned the only information we received came from occasional press reports of tension and so long way these days they are the sounds of course they were wrong for them at the three laws began to move across the upper so there were occasional incidents that
caught the attention of press occasional someone would be attacked someone would be arrested the victim was attacked would be arrested that would make news but there are only one or two of those as i recall and so throughout that the early days of that trip those that free money didn't make much national news and therefore on very little attention paid to the fire the law is that that that is one of the rise that we are being protected that doesn't work
so new orleans the relationship between joan candidate and simple literature at the i was trying very early on the first visit there martin king paid to market it in april of nineteen sixty one the attorney general explained to him that he didn't have a national police force and that he was not getting much cooperation from the fbi he explained and what dr king knew and that was the jailer was unsympathetic and considered civil rights matters outside the jurisdiction the fbi if there was no so if there was a murder if that was arson that there were bombing and with all of that according to a hoover that was a local law
enforcement problem was not a national crime was a local crime end the attorney general continued to press him but j edgar hoover heard what you wanted to hear and heard nothing he didn't want to hear any attorney joe was his superior i think their relationship with mark from with pension from the outset because simply because you're tone deaf when it came to any issue of civil rights outside voting rights which he could not escape responsibility for voting rights with the national crime to deny voting rights and fbi had to move in and the un that hoover knew that his agents in the south i wanted to in every major city but no more he knew that they were working with local law enforcement on crimes
like a bank robbery kidnapping is a first edition of stolen goods working with local police on those federal crimes and he knew that the local police establishment in vero it was infiltrated by the ku klux klan and sometimes dominated by the klan so the tension between the attorney general on one hand and the andean director the fbi on the other mr morton was palpable and continuous so this kind of a protection because well the fbi protection as it rises falls there there was no protection from the fbi for the freedom riders and i would both for its idealism those agents with those agents assigned to the south there was no interest in providing protection he's been
the point which is a mississippi burning mississippi burning it's largely mythical in terms of my experience and the justice department you know the value is that the sudden you did know something about the re rise one of the thoughtful ways a hawk would happen i hoped that every moniz would make a trip from baltimore to new orleans and in that they were up five was no danger with minimal difficult but coming from the south and known the south and having what's the sit ins in nashville i know in my mind that it was unlikely that they could make that trip without some incidents of some incidents of violence a major violence
but it was a hoax simeon booker t has expressed and when he came in the suits or that russia fear he was going to take this a son along as a journalist johnson publications haven't had given an assignment but he wanted her job to know that that if there was trouble he didn't have any faith in the fbi and he was looking for somebody could you could call and does so i i i had hoped day to day rise would go successfully and frankly all of the first several days when a lot of press reports of the problems my confidence built a little bit perhaps they would get through perhaps people would simply turned their backs on the last thing that tony joe wanted and the last thing the prime minister is one what a major
civil rights conflagration their worst fear was saturday with another little rock to have to send in federal troops to keep the peace and yes that was a that was a political concern they had carried out five southern states president kennedy carried from southern states with a nobleman and johnson then saying as a segregationist if they could have avoided major blowup years and right there was some possibility of that that the president could maintain some popularity in the soil and so they were hoping against hope that the that there would not be that sort of explosive an outburst of violence that forced a federal action part of that was concerned
about just how committed the fbi and its agents were because of rights and so on and so that was almost for them it was almost a catch twenty two on the one hand can't move over on the other can't control the movement the movement is going on and so that's all you could do with hope i'm not allowed in folk group the universe colson says that means washington apple and leave enough from baltimore and that's where farmers headquarters were bobby led the ability of the press release came from baltimore what are also watching the new pew pew begin to almost certain that no
insurer that when the freedom riders first left from washington but we had no immediate noticed that the bus was pulling out we knew from presley said it was great but no moral or what was the reaction when you're writing well the first notice of an i guess was on sunday evening the bus had been stopped just before we get the anniston alabama nick clegg liberal bloc and bombed and burned the boss and of course there was news
about it but as i recall it was a sunday night i know that sometime sunday night simeon booker called me and i called the attorney general then i guess the first thing i felt i'm sure you've had the attorney general felt was shattered hope that we should know it clinton long line vote on and at the full impact of it really didn't dawn attorney general i think until the next day one we sat around in the office and again to talk about what was to be done bird marshal immediately was on top of it
he was milking the fbi for any information that led the head and all of the all of the reports were tragic there were people who were beaten men and peck literally had a brain scrambled i mean he was never the same until his death there were and you know the lead bomb the bus and set fire to it some of the riders couldn't get off sulfur smoke inhalation and the next day a burger more film by that time didn't get information that they had voted among themselves not to continue on the bus there was they physically were not able to read and the beatings had been intensive and almost all of them
suffered some injury and and then after they decided that they wouldn't go forward in basra but the bullfrog within they then they then went to the airport to lead and because that was on the local news and with a note on a crowd gathered at the airport when the wool well first my first reaction of course was concern grave disappointment in a heavy burden you can come as overloaded and i'm not on the phone
what had happened and i remember talking to turn to joe about the dreaded dome poker pro the president reagan make a trip out of the country at that moment and when word came that the freedom riders had decided to go by air to new orleans the election for its work that they can get out of birmingham by air every every flight result dumont cost would come and delta airlines would cancel the flight and so they couldn't get out manager joe and president talk about it so i was sent down the decision was made that morning to send me to birmingham to help them get out of new orleans get out of birmingham and you won't burn
until a president talk together and i taught them with them and i said he was simply go to alabama and go to birmingham get those freedom riders to normal and one of the disappointments i think for the president was that john patterson the mau mau mau would not take the president's phone call would not take advantage of local he was supposedly immobile day on a boat and couldn't be released which is facetious on its face and so by the time i left is that mid day the government still had not responded to the president's call back at your airport
easy you know i acted drama prone attorney joe i take a delta flight to them and even through atlanta it's a long fight but by the time i get there they're still trapped in that airport they are frightened to death they go to the restroom and peers are like a guard serving food there visible because they've been so badly beaten on and so and they were glad to see some money from of obama i think the people are not wed see somebody from a vote on with the violence but i got with the manager delta and they go on the telephone and so driven and most patients here i suggested to them
that they would be no bomb threats if they'd set everybody's luggage who's passing through and if they checked all our lives in fremont is the line didn't have those checkpoints we have to go through the open on loans so cecala everybody's baggage and that's the way we got away without their view represented for the nine states in utah there's a the regulated airline and the arrival in those days we were all there on the first flight and i think it was a great relief to lure free riders who had suffered near death couple near death and all in great danger and on the intense pain and the flight down was an eventful when we arrived
in orland state police lined and then judd ways that go right up to the german know that you know you came down a ladder state police formed a car loan from the steps of the obama plan to the terminal and i'll say they were cursed and condemned with racial slurs from the bottom of that letter to we walked into the terminal day and i by this time though the fact that i was there with and you wouldn't believe it from state police officers just spewing filth and venom and hatred and so we walked into the terminal and deliver them to you have friends who have gone well for me you know two years ago and georgia gilmore
go to spend the night and you know i thought what a great year on my own how easy this was you know just took years in front of it or don't want none mission accomplished great britain earning wasn't trying to get government has evolved into walls garnet patterson was incommunicado for the us this could not reach the goal of our moment of eden but the gun well mama mama papa john patterson had supported jack kennedy in nineteen sixty he had been the first southern governor to endorse secondly publicly and now he was furious on that point of a year i'm almost ally in that really nice days ago the freedom riders had come to tell about so bella thousand and made up his mind it when i don't
talk to the president about this may be new the president about to leave the country and he did not talk to president of state before before the president left the country dr levy i've the fbi the fbi i'm sure was in the near term though when i arrived they never identified themselves to me they never identified themselves to the three months to my knowledge it's open the gates to me the attitude of the fbi or a frightening reflecting the views of good over knowing i'm reflecting the views of the attorney general who there's tension there's a great misunderstanding and and so it i guess
looking back on it and in light of what happened afterward i'm not surprised that that had not been opponents of the survey that you know i was going and certainly they should've been there and certainly i believe they were there they provided no truth to the rumors during the long hours that was stuck at the airport those economy was and it was as if the fbi had ice worm what his own tense unlike in the airport and inside the ear court the first thing i found was the fear that was a couple of free riders warren were afraid and then right to be afraid i mean they had narrowly escaped death on our hand on
everybody in the airport i knew we were there was no friendship from a delta attendants fall and there was no effort to provide comfort there was no effort to provide them food are as i as i am as i think back on it if if they went to the bathroom and jostled i'm sure that number curses directed at them casually by passing travelers were the number one the enormous eighteen it was i mean they were they were in limbo and there were enough there were there are frightened state of limbo and and as i said i think that when i arrived there was some relief i don't mean that the sunday they thought that the messiah to arrive
This record is featured in “Freedom Riders Interviews.”
American Experience
Freedom Riders
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Interview with John Seigenthaler, 1 of 3
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John Seigenthaler was a native of Nashville, TN who worked as a newspaper reporter at The Nashville Tennessean prior to working as a special assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. As special assistant to the Attorney General, Seigenthaler initially served as the intermediary between the federal government, the Freedom Riders, and white segregationist state officials.
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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 John Seigenthaler, 1 of 3,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2019,
MLA: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with John Seigenthaler, 1 of 3.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2019. <>.
APA: American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with John Seigenthaler, 1 of 3. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from