Freedom Riders

Trail Marker

212 Constitution Avenue, Meridian, MS

The Freedom Riders of 1961 were groups composed of both Black and white Civil Rights activists who rode throughout the South, challenging segregated bus practices. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1960 that segregated interstate buses and bus terminals were unconstitutional. However, Southern states ignored this ruling, and the federal government did not enforce it. It was still common for buses to have segregated seating areas and for terminals to have separate restrooms, waiting rooms, water fountains, and lunch counters.

As they traveled throughout the South, Freedom Riders were often met with violence, especially in the Deep South. There are many accounts of riders being attacked by Ku Klux Klan members, and one bus was burned. Angry mobs often surrounded bus terminals, waiting for Freedom Riders to arrive. Riders who entered Mississippi were greeted by a sign reading “Prepare to meet thy God.” Large numbers of Freedom Riders were arrested.

In Meridian, however, Freedom Riders had a different experience. According to oral history reports, local Civil Rights activists met with police prior to the Freedom Riders’ arrival, and they agreed that it would be in the best interest of the city of Meridian to make the riders’ stop here peaceful. Although there were some minor confrontations, no one was injured or arrested during their stop.

Directions to next marker (McLemore Cemetery): Turn left on Constitution Avenue and continue to Front Street; turn left on Front Street and continue to 16th Avenue; turn left on 16th Avenue and then left on 6th Street to McLemore Cemetery entrance gate.

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