On May 28, 1961, a Greyhound bus with nine Freedom Riders aboard arrived here, the third group of Riders into Jackson. The first two came on Trailways buses May 24, That summer 329 people were arrested in Jackson for integrating public transportation facilities. Convicted on "breach of peace" and jailed, most refused bail and were sent to the state penitentiary. Their protest worked. In September 1961, the federal government mandated that segregation in interstate transportation end.
Greyhound Bus Station This former Greyhound bus station was the scene of many historic arrests in 1961, when Freedom Riders challenged racial segregation in Jackson's bus and train stations and airport. The Freedom Riders, part of a campaign created by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), pressured the federal government to enforce the law regarding illegal racially separate waiting rooms, rest rooms, and restaurants—common in public transportation facilities across the South.
On May 4, 1961, thirteen Riders—black and whites, men and women—left Washington, D.C., on two buses. Trained in nonviolent direct action, they planned to desegregate bus stations throughout the South. They integrated stations in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia with few incidents but were attacked by vicious mobs in Anniston, Birmingham, and Montgomery, Alabama. The Kennedy administration implored them to stop, a call echoed by the media and some civil rights leaders. The Riders, however, reinforced with new volunteers from the Nashville Student Movement, were determined to continue.
On May 24, two buses of Freedom Riders left Montgomery bound for Jackson, with highway patrolmen and National Guardsmen as armed guards. Instead of a protest mob, policemen met them in Jackson, urging them to "move on" when the Riders tried to use facilities denied them. When the Riders reused, they were arrested, charged with "breach of peace," and quickly convicted.
Embracing the "jail-no bail" tactic, they invited new Riders from around the country to join them in Jackson. Within three weeks the city's jails were full, and the Riders were transferred to the state penitentiary at Parchman, where most served six weeks, suffering indignities and injustices with fortitude and resolve. Between May 24 and September 13, 329 people were arrested in Jackson—half black, half white, and a quarter of them women. Most were between the ages of eighteen and thirty. They came from thirty-nine states and ten other countries; forty-three were from Mississippi.
On September 23, the Interstate Commerce Commission mandated and end to segregation in all bus and train stations and airports. The victorious Freedom Riders left a legacy of historic changes, proving the value of nonviolent direct action, providing a template for future campaigns, and helping jump-start the movement in Mississippi.