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    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.


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