Tuesday, January 29, 2008

1947 "Freedom Ride" remembered

Everyone knows about the 1961 "freedom rides," but not everybody knows that they had a precedent in 1947. In 1946, the Supreme Court held that interstate Jim Crow laws on buses and trains were unconstitutional. A group of activists led by Bayard Rustin and the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, took to the road to test the opinion. When they got to Chapel Hill, they were met with violence--a sorry bit of history for our "city on the hill."

The legendary Rev. Charlie Jones took the victims to his home (pursued by cabs filled with men who got out and threw rocks at his house) and then helped them make safe passage to Greensboro.

Three men--Bayard Rustin, James Felmut, and Igal Roodenko--served time for their offenses against the state by working on a chain gang. (The high profile of this travesty at least led to a legislative investigation of North Carolina's chain gangs and ultimately their abolition.)

At last night's Council meeting, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, together with the Community Church (the church Rev. Jones helped to found after he was expelled from the Presbyterian Church over these issues), sought a resolution from us in support of their campaign to get a North Carolina historical marker erected to commemorate this event. We passed the resolution with dispatch--and we look forward to their success in Raleigh.

No comments: