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.


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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