Fifty years ago, America was struggling to implement
the ideals of justice and equality set forth in our founding.
The Freedom Rides, organized in the spring of 1961, were an
interracial, nonviolent effort to protest the practice of
segregation. Setting out from Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961,
the Freedom Riders sought to actualize the decision in Boynton
v. Virginia, which held that interstate passengers had a right
to be served without discrimination, and to challenge the
enforcement of local segregation laws and practices.
The Freedom Rides, organized by the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC), and other devoted advocates, built upon the boycotts and
sit-ins that were defying Jim Crow segregation across the South.
The Freedom Riders themselves were black and white, often
students and young people, and committed to the cause of
nonviolent resistance. Along the way, buses were attacked and
men and women were intimidated, arrested, and brutally beaten.
The publicity generated by the courageous Freedom Riders as they
faced continued violence and complicit local police drew the
attention of the Kennedy Administration and Americans across our
Through their defiant journeys, the Freedom Riders sent a
resounding message to the rest of our Nation that desegregation
was a moral imperative. The Freedom Riders also motivated
and mobilized the next generation of civil rights leaders.
The unflinching bravery and unyielding commitment of the
Freedom Riders inspired many of those involved to become
lifelong activists, organizers, and leaders in the civil rights
Today, we remember the Freedom Riders for the sacrifices
they made in pursuit of the rights we now enjoy. They showed
that people working together across backgrounds and boundaries
could hold America accountable to our highest ideals and bend
the arc of history towards justice. They showed that young
people have the power to generate a movement for equality and
steer the course of our Nation. Because of their efforts, and
the work of those who marched and stood against injustice, we
live in a country where all Americans have the right to dream
and choose their own destiny.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the
United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in
me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do
hereby proclaim May 2011 as the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom
Rides. I call upon all Americans to participate in ceremonies
and activities that honor the Freedom Riders and all those who
struggled for equal rights during the civil rights movement.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
third day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven,
and of the Independence of the United States of America the
two hundred and thirty-fifth.