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British Association for American Studies


Issue 2, Autumn 2001 article 3


Issue 2, Autumn 2001 article 3

U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal

Issue 2, Autumn 2001

Jail-no-Bail Comes of Age: the Freedom Rides and the Use of Prison as a Platform for Racial Protest

Zoe A. Greer
© Zoe A. Greer. All Rights Reserved

In April 1960, civil rights worker Len Holt appealed to members of the civil rights movement to“go to jail by the hundreds and thousands.” In doing so, he argued, “the hearts of those who would maintain the old order will be inundated with the guilt necessary to bring about change.”[1] Holt, along with such pacifist-oriented leaders as John Lewis and Bayard Rustin, strongly believed that the Movement should adopt a policy of jail-no-bail. Instead of fearing prison, they should embrace it; instead of accepting bail they should remain imprisoned for the duration of their sentence. Following in the tradition of pacifist teachings, the Movement had already accepted the idea that one had a moral responsibility to challenge immoral laws. Holt’s speech revisited these teachings in order to remind the student movement that posting bail was an act of cooperation with the southern power structure, if they were serious about using non-violent direct action, they must remain in jail.

The significance of jail-no-bail for the Movement, however, went much further than merely an act of noncooperation. For over a century, the southern white power structure had used the criminal justice system as a form of racial control, designed to enforce the colour line and punish any challenges to the racial status quo. The southern jail, more than any other institution, symbolised the power that whites had over the African American community. Mostterrifying of all were the occasions when lynch mobs effectively became an extension of the criminal justice system, taking the accused from the prison cell to impose their own judgment.[2] Although lynching had largely disappeared by 1960, the use of prison to force conformity to the colour line had not. To challenge segregation from a prison cell—the place where black met white, impotence met power, and occasionally, life met death—was not only a refusal to cooperate with immoral laws, it was a challenge to the white power structure, a statement that their conventional methods of control were no longer effective. During the years that followed the sit-in campaigns, the simple act of allowing oneself to be arrested and jailedevolved to become a highly symbolic gesture and a well-established tactic of the Movement. The traditional perspective of imprisonment as a shameful experience was inverted and turned from something to be deeply feared, to a source of pride and a platform for protest.[3]

Attitudes towards and the philosophy behind jail-no-bail continued to change and develop throughout the history of the Movement. One crucial stage of this development took place during the summer of 1961, with the imprisonment of Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi. This work will focus upon jail-no-bail during the Freedom Ride on two levels: firstly, the experiences of the imprisoned protesters and, secondly, the cross-organisational effort of the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee to direct the pressure of mass imprisonments where it would be most influential. Although only a relatively small number of people would be imprisoned during the Ride, it was a watershed in the history of jail-no-bail. Whilst Movement members had talked about jail-no-bail for over a year, the Riders were the first to succeed in placing pressure upon segregationist forces through mass jailings. In doing so, the Rides expanded jail-no-bail from being a symbolic act of protest, to an elaborate strategy to capture media attention and a practical attempt to make segregation so costly as to force the white power structure to reconsider the practice.


During the early months of 1961, the term ‘jail-in’ was increasingly used in discussion over how the Movement should respond to arrest and imprisonment. This reflected a vision held by certain elements of the Movement—most noticeably within the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)—of the imprisonment of protesters on such a grand scale that they would, quite literally, ‘fill the jails’. This development reflected a rising awareness that jail-no-bail could serve tactical as well as moral purposes: they could place pressure on local and federal authorities, avoid the costly need to raise bail bonds and attract media attention. Conscious that jail-no-bail had, so far, been more talked about than acted upon, CORE launched its first jail-in, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on the anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Arrested for sitting-in at a McCrory’s lunch counter, the ten protesters were sentenced to $100 fine or thirty days on the chaingang—all but one elected to serve the sentence. SNCC soon acted in support of the jail-in, sending four workers to join the imprisoned nine and issuing a call for others to follow. The jail-in, however, went no further.[4]

The Rock Hill jails may not have been filled, the campaign, however, set an important precedent, establishing both the positive benefits of imprisonment and the need for a determined organising effort outside the prison walls. It would only be months later—when CORE decided to test compliance with the 1960 Boynton decision prohibiting segregation of terminal facilities on interstate travel—that the imprisonment of hundreds of Freedom Riders in Jackson brought the opportunity to put such lessons into practice.


Inspiration for the Freedom Ride came from the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, during which CORE had sought to test compliance with the Morgan v. Virginia ruling against the segregationof seating on interstate travel. CORE’s Gordon Carey saw the new Boynton decision as an opportunity to launch a similar campaign and spread non-violent resistance across the South.[5] The ‘Freedom Ride’, as it was soon dubbed, was enthusiastically approved by the CORE Council. Following along the lines of the Journey, an interracial group of thirteen individuals would travel on buses by day, challenging segregation at every stop and addressing mass meetings on a night.

Unlike the 1947 campaign, which restricted its itinerary to the border South, CORE would venture into the Deep South, including Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. During the Journey, participants had posted bail on all but one of the six occasions when arrests had been made. The one exception had been in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where three pacifists within the group had served twenty-two day sentences on a chain gang. One of the men, Bayard Rustin, later detailed his prison experiences in a pamphlet, Twenty-two Days on the Chain Gang.[6]Inspired by Rustin’s eloquent justification of his actions and emboldened by the Rock Hill jail-in, CORE resolved to “[f]ill up the jails, as Gandhi did in India, fill them to bursting if we ha[ve] to.”[7]

On May 4, twenty-two Freedom Riders quietly left Washington DC. There is no need to recount the events of the following ten days here. Suffice to say that, as the Riders approached the Deep South, the violence and harassment became ever more extreme.

On May 14, as the Ride approached Birmingham, Alabama, one bus was firebombed just outside of Anniston; on arrival in Birmingham, the second group of Riders were attacked by members of the Klan. Exhausted and war-weary, CORE resolved to abandon the Ride and made plans to fly to New Orleans ready to attend a planned rally on May 17. It was only with the intervention of the Nashville SNCC group that the Ride continued.

Plans to persist with the Ride were met with determined resistance from both federal and state governments. On May 23, after a riot in Montgomery, Alabama, and numerous political u-turns, the Riders finally boarded a bus and, under an armed escort, headed for Jackson, Mississippi. One of the twelve Riders later described how “behind all those escorts I felt likethe President of the U.S. touring Russia.”[8] Director of CORE, James Farmer, and Lucretia Collins were the first to alight from the bus—as they approached the white rest rooms, a Jackson policeman stepped forward and arrested them.[9]

Despite Robert Kennedy’s hopes that the Riders would leave Jackson, a second bus arrived only a short time after the first and further arrests were made. Farmer, now imprisoned in the county jail, realised that Mississippi had presented them with an opportunity to fill her jails and sent word to CORE national office that they should keep sending Riders to Jackson.

Much more than for the Riders who followed, arrest for these first twenty-seven protesters was especially stressful. “I remember one…young lady, who just started pulling her hair out. I mean, screaming and stuff like that. Like, ‘I’m supposed to be dead,’ recalled Dave Dennis,“…we had psyched ourselves to the extent of dying, that this was going to be it. And when it didn’t happen…we all went through some psychological…problems…because we had not expected to survive this.[10]Unlike the sit-ins, where most protesters were at least aware of support from their community or organisation, these early Freedom Riders were completely isolated. This was particularly intense for the two white men and four black women who werearrested that day: prison segregation meant that they were also isolated from the black men, who made up the majority of the group and included all of the older, more experienced activists.[11]

On May 26, the twenty-seven Riders were brought to trial. Judge James Spencer found the accused guilty of breaching the peace and sentenced them to $200 fine and a sixty daysuspended sentence. At the trial, all twenty-seven abided by their pledge to refuse bail and remain in jail for 39 days, the longest one could stay in jail and still have the right to appeal the conviction.[12] The same day, the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee, consisting of representatives from SNCC, CORE and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), held its first meeting. The Committee outlined its aim to pressure Attorney General Kennedyto issue on order establishing the rights of interstate travellers through the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). This would be attained by filling the “jails of Montgomery and Jackson in order to keep a sharp image of the issues before the public.”[13] The realisationthat Mississippi would continue to imprison the Freedom Riders marked a new phase in the campaign—it had become, in Farmer’s words, “a different and far grander thing than we had intended.”[14]

Interestingly, the day before CORE, SNCC and SCLC came together to secure the success of the Rides, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples (NAACP) had issued an official position on the project. The NAACP had been at the forefront of defending African Americans from the brutality and injustices of the southern prison for half a century; as a national civil rights organisation, it struggled to appreciate that imprisonment could be anything other than a social stigma. Nevertheless, keen to maintain relations with the growing non-violent Movement, the organisation had silenced its many objections to jail-no-bail. As early as June 1960, however, as the call for jail-no-bail intensified, the NAACP had found it increasingly difficult to reconcile itself to this philosophical clash. The memorandum; which pledged firm support for the Rides, called for federal protection and rejected any demand for a moratorium on arrests; was a clear attempt by the NAACP to bridge the growing gulf between itself and the proponents of jail-no-bail. Such efforts, however, were almost instantly damaged when it was reported in Jet that Thurgood Marshall had made a speech attacking CORE for not defending in court its members arrested as a result of the Rides. CORE had responded to this “low blow” by stating it was yet another example of “how the NAACP attempts to embarrass other groups in the civil rights field.” Despite a damage-limitation effort by Marshall, who claimed that the speech had merely constituted a statement of theNAACP’s pragmatic objections to the idea that “you can test a law and get it thrown out by staying in jail,” the organisation increasingly opposed any campaign that sought to secure the mass imprisonment of protesters.[15]

The arrival of nine Riders in Jackson on May 28 and a further seventeen the following day forced Governor Barnett to confront the possibility of imprisoning protesters en masse. With the Jackson City Jail already overflowing, twenty-two of the prisoners were moved to the county farm who were soon joined by other Riders who continued to flow into Jackson. The prospect of hundreds of civil rights prisoners left Barnett with the deepest fear that any violence against the Riders would bring hundreds more to Mississippi and possibly lead to federal intervention. Such fear was heightened by news reports that Reverend C.T. Vivian had been beaten with a blackjack by Superintendent Max Thomas for refusing to say ‘sir’ to hiscaptors. Fearing federal intervention, Mississippi authorities paid lip-service to complaints of brutality by suspending Thomas whilst the case was investigated. Thomas quietly returned to work after Sheriff Gilfoy concluded he had acted in self-defence.[16]

Meanwhile, the attempt to fill Montgomery’s jails had collapsed. At least fifteen Riders were arrested and imprisoned in Montgomery during the first week of the Rides, including Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth and Wyatt T. Walker. The Montgomery arrests, however, had failed to gain the same press attention as those in Jackson, whilst the relatively violence-freeJackson must have seemed a more attractive destination than the previously riot-torn Montgomery. On June 2, four black Freedom Riders, part of a group travelling to Jackson, used the white waiting room at the Trailways station in Montgomery without arrest.[17] From then on, all efforts were concentrated upon Jackson.

As early as June 4, the Jackson Daily News was reporting that some prisoners might be moved to Parchman Farm, the notorious state penitentiary.[18] On June 15, the first of many groups of Riders made the 130 mile journey to ‘little Alcatraz’. News of the intended transfer,leaked to them by a black trustee—“[t]hey’re going to try to whip your ass”—sent a wave of fear amongst the prisoners: most believed that the beating of C.T. Vivian was only the first of many.[19]

Fear was running high as the group of men caught their first glimpse of Parchman, “the mostfabled state prison in the South.” “[W]hen we arrived [at Parchman],” recalled Dion T. Diamond, “there was an outer ring of barbed wire, steel-meshed fence; ten feet further within…a fence…that…was electrically charged, inside of that was a brick wall.”[20] Upon leaving the paddy wagon, the Riders were forced to strip and then given uniforms, the smallest going to the largest of the men, and vice versa.

Accounts by civil rights workers of their imprisonment abound with stories of both sympatheticprisoners and how they were able to convert hostile prisoners to understand their actions; such accounts, however, belie the fact that they were also in genuine danger from someprisoners.[21] One white convict recalled that “we wanted to kick their asses,” whilst a black prisoner spoke of how “we [the black convicts] were really pretty ignorant about things back then and weren’t especially fond of them [the freedom riders.]”[22] Desperate to avoid both violence and any conversions to the Riders’ views, Barnett ordered the Riders isolated in themaximum security unit, with some placed on death row. Ironically, in the very heart of Mississippi’s white power structure, the Freedom Riders brought integration to Parchman, when black and white prisoners were housed in the same cell block for the first time.[23]

Whilst violence was clearly feared and all knew of someone who had been injured, the majority of prisoners did escape such an experience. What was typical, however, was the ongoing harassment of prisoners. Restricted in their ability to ‘punish’ the Riders, the guards resorted to more covert forms of brutality against the civil rights activists. “They knew many of us were chain smokers,” James Farmer recalled, “…they wouldn’t allow any cigarettes in, andthe guards would walk down the corridors blowing cigarette smoke into our cells…And they knew most of these were college students. They wouldn’t allow any books in, no books whatever.”[24] In particular, the persistent singing of freedom songs by the detainees caused many confrontations with the prison guards. Punishments consisted of taking away mattresses, leaving the Riders to sleep on cold, hard metal beds. On one occasion, a number of the men refused to give up their mattresses—guards dragged them the length of the prison on their mattresses and used wrist breakers before they were finally able to detach the men. During the day, the windows were closed and the men left to swelter in the heat. On a night,the men were soaked with fire hoses and then fans would be turned on. “I didn’t know Mississippi could get that cold,” one of the men commented, “[a]lmost everybody came down with a cold.”[25]

The desire to fill Jackson’s jails meant that the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee was forced to search for an ever-increasing number of volunteers.[26] The difficulty of such a task should not be underestimated: persuading individuals—who often had little or no experience of civil rights protest—to enter a southern jail for thirty-nine days was far from simple. The first arrestees tended to be predominantly African American, male and southern, making up 62% of the first arrests. Conscious that the success of the Rides depended upon attracting the attention of both the media and the federal government, the Committee aimed its recruitingefforts at both black and white volunteers from outside the South. By July, they had been largely successful, with the month’s arrestees comprising 47% from outside the South, including a Dutch, Belgian, Canadian and Austrian.[27]

With the Committee concentrating upon the volume of volunteers, there were occasions when less then suitable people were accepted onto the Ride.[28] Despite extensive training in the principles of non-violence prior to joining the Rides, many were not prepared for what lay ahead of them. It was common for new arrivals to swear to be in prison “‘until hell freezes over’” yet, after a couple of days of imprisonment, would ask CORE to bail them out. In the majority of cases, CORE refused, reminding them of their pledge to stay in jail for thirty-nine days.

The stresses of prison life, particularly for those least prepared, took their toll upon the Freedom Riders. The division between those committed to non-violence as a philosophy and those who merely saw it as a tactic was as evident in the jails as anywhere else. Arguments regularly broke out over any number of issues: religious worship, hunger strikes, philosophy, even the level of noise in the cell. One of the greatest trials a civil rights worker had to face in jail, however, was the psychological pressure of the threat of violence. Of course, this is not to suggest that the threat of violence was anything but omnipresent in the Movement experience, the stress of this for the Riders, however, was intensified. As the first large group of protesters to be imprisoned in Mississippi, the state was expected to maintain its reputation as the most racist in the Union. With whole days to dwell on what could happen to them, tempers often became frayed. On a number of occasions, fistfights broke out when one person aggravated those who were fasting by noisily slurping their food. Yet, simultaneously, this close contact was crucial to maintaining the prisoners’ commitment to the Movement. For so long, a key element of the threat of prison was the fear that one would be forgotten,ignored, and left at the complete mercy of the prison authorities. The jailing of protesters en masse helped to alleviate much of this fear by creating a support network, a sense of community amongst the protesters.[29]

Although most Riders appear to have wanted to be bailed out of prison at some point in their ordeal, the majority did stay for the full thirty-nine days. For many, the experience was transformative. Around half of the jailed Riders were black, three quarters of these were men—as African American men were most commonly the victim of unjust convictions, many found imprisonment a liberating experience. Having survived prison, they felt that they could survive anything. For the northern white students, the jail experience gave them an opportunity to taste the kind of life African Americans were forced to live every day. Thirty-nine days in prison “is nothing compared to the lifetime of suffering and embarrassment that twenty million Americans must face because their skin is black,” wrote one white student to Farmer.[30] Whilst only a small number of white northerners were imprisoned during the Rides, their experiences often had a much wider impact on the white population. One of the few ‘luxuries’ allowed the Riders was the freedom to write home to their parents and friends:these, often highly emotional, letters communicated the plight of the southern African Americans in a very personal manner. On occasion, they also seem to have inspired parents to publicise events in the South by circulating copies of letters and holding fund-raising events.[31]

Regardless of race or gender, imprisonment created a shared experience and common purposeamongst the Freedom Riders. “The feeling of people coming out of jail was one that they had triumphed, that they had achieved,” C.T. Vivian noted, “[n]on-violence had been proven in that respect.”[32] The levelling nature of jail was an important asset to the Movement, enabling both black and white to make a genuine sacrifice.

Interestingly, the women amongst the Riders escaped the worst of the treatment, although the conditions they were forced to live in varied very little from those the men lived in. It wasnot until a large number of women (although they only ever comprised one quarter of the total number jailed) went on a hunger strike, demanding that they receive the same treatment as the men, that some were transferred to Parchman.[33] The reason for this difference intreatment appears to be largely due to fear of bad publicity—the authorities no doubt felt that reports of women being beaten would be even more damaging than news of violence against men.[34]

It was during the Freedom Rides that CORE and SNCC learnt that local support was often a vital ingredient in the success of a jail-in. The small gifts of food and blankets that locals brought to the jail helped maintain the morale of the jailed, encouraging them to maintain their commitment to the Movement. In Jackson, it was a group of local African American women named Womenpower Unlimited that provided the main body of this support. Thegroup, established by Claire Collins Harvey, evolved into an interracial network of threehundred women, who brought supplies to the jail and relayed information to the families of imprisoned Riders.[35] In particular, the womens’ regular delivery of food to prisons was generally the only source of edible food available to the jailed Riders.[36] In responding to the needs of the Movement when nobody else would, these women not only helped to ensure the continuation of the Freedom Rides, they also defied gender roles.

By July, it was reported that the Hinds County representative, Russell Davis, would ask the state legislature to cover the cost of jailing the Riders. Allen Thompson, Mayor of Jackson,estimated that the protests had cost the city of Jackson $250 000. It is also believed that the Rides meant that the planned dispensation of an ‘auto-use tax’ in Jackson that summer had to be abandoned.[37] Certainly, the cost of jailing and prosecuting the 328 Riders in Jacksonplaced a heavy burden on the city’s finances; it seems unlikely, however, that the Riders ever came close to forcing the Jackson authorities to stop arresting those who challenged segregation merely on account of financial pressure.[38] Whilst the Mississippi authorities were an important target of the Rides, the most important target was the federal government. Despite a high degree of hostility from Robert Kennedy, the Rides did indeed succeed in securing a ruling from the ICC against the segregation of travel facilities.

None of the 328 Riders remained in jail for any longer than thirty-nine days, a fact that must have helped ease the financial burden of imprisoning the Riders. Such a practice moved jail-no-bail away from its original philosophy of non-violent resistance towards a strategy to undermine all aspects of segregation. One important consequence of bailing out protesters was that CORE still had to find bail money for all the jailed Riders—by July, this had already amounted to $138 000. On August 4, the Mississippi authorities ordered all 196 persons so far bailed from jail to return to Jackson within ten days for their appeal to be heard. All but six did so, at which point the authorities announced they would be tried two at a time. The majority returned home, again at CORE’s expense. No doubt in the hope of bankrupting CORE, the Mississippi court responded to the appeals by doubling the prison sentence to four months and tripling the fine to $1 500. Prevented from abandoning the appeals and with Mississippibond companies’ refusal to supply any more money, CORE was left close to financial ruin. The situation was only resolved when the $372 000 in fines and bail was cleared by a loan from the NAACP Legal Defence Fund.[39]


The Freedom Ride was seen as the greatest success of jail-no-bail to date, bringing the strategy to life and proving that it could work. The Rides brought the first jailing en masse of an interracial group and, in doing so, placed financial pressure on the state authorities, forced the federal government to act to prevent violence and made a moral statement about racism. The early accusations of brutality against imprisoned Riders brought widespread coverage from the national media and, whilst the overall lack of violence in Jackson meant most news reporters departed relatively quickly, the experience brought important lessons in how to attract media attention. One thing the jailings largely failed to do, however, was change the ‘hearts and minds’ of the South. Whilst many left Parchman with a devout belief in the power of non-violence, others observed that it was the federal government’s need to preserve order, and not the moral strength of the Riders’ actions, that had forced the ICC to issue a ruling against the segregation of travel facilities.

Possibly the greatest legacy of the Freedom Ride, however, was the lesson it brought in the practicalities of using prison as a platform for racial protest. The reality of the Freedom Rides was that jail-no-bail was never truly a part of the project. In fact, what the Movement called jail-no-bail was actually much closer to the NAACP’s strategy than most would admit. Marshall had indeed been correct when he said one can not “get [a law] thrown out by staying in jail”: it was for this reason that the Riders had all accepted bail after thirty-nine days in order to challenge their conviction in court. Yet, this was not the end of jail-no-bail, it was merely a turning point. The Freedom Rides brought the lesson that in order to attain its true potential, jail-no-bail would have to move away from its strict pacifist ideals and become a more sophisticated, flexible response to segregationist resistance. Whilst jail-no-bail remained many things to many people, its greatest successes came when organisers realised that, on occasion, strategy had to prevail over morality.

University of Newcastle upon Tyne


[1] ‘Jail not Bail’, Southern Patriot, 8:5 (May 1960), 4.

[2] The relationship between the lynch mob and the criminal justice system was both complex and irregular: many sheriffs sought to keep their charges away from the mob by stowing them away in ‘mob-safe’ jails. There were sufficient cases across the South when sheriffs made no attempt to resist the mob, however, for a clear link to exist between the criminal justice system and extralegal violence in the minds of black and white alike. See Neil McMillen, Dark Journey. Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 224-253.

[3] It is important to remember that the civil rights prison experience—and its impact—was determined by numerous factors: race, gender, philosophy to name but a few. Nevertheless, as soon as a protester was imprisoned as a result of their involvement with the Movement, both black and white alike could rightly claim to have experienced prison as a form of racial control.

[4] On the Rock Hill jail-in see, Thomas Gaither, Jailed-In (New York: League for Industrial Democracy, 1961); August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, CORE. A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 116-122; Robert Weisbrot, Freedom Bound. A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1990), 29-31; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle. SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 32-34.

[5] Catherine Barnes, Journey from Jim Crow. The Desegregation of Southern Transport (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 157-175. James Farmer, Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Penguin Group, 1985), 195-214. Meier and Rudwick, CORE, 135-158.

[6] ‘Four Anti-Jimcrow Bus Riders Get Maximum Under State Law’, no date. CORE news release. Reel 44, CORE papers, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. (hereafter CORE.) Bayard Rustin, Twenty-two Days on the Chain Gang, Fellowship of Reconciliation pamphlet, 1949. Box 2, Fellowship of Reconciliation papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore University, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

[7]At CORE orientation sessions, participants pledged to accept imprisonment over bail. Jim Peck, Special Freedom Ride edition of the CORE-lator, 89 (May 1961). Howell Raines (ed.), My Soul is Rested. The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South (New York: Penguin, 1977), 109.

[8] John Dittmer, Local People. The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 90. Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement (London: MacMillan, 1988), 456-459.

[9] Leslie W. Dunbar, ‘Freedom Ride’, New South, 16:7-8 (July-August 1961), 9.

[10] Dave Dennis interviewed by Worth Long. Circle archives, Southern Regional Council, Atlanta, Georgia.

[11] List of Freedom Rider arrests, May 24-May 28 1961. File 2-144, Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Records, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi (hereafter cited as MSSC-MDAH.)

[12] The following day, five of the Riders—including all but one of the black female prisoners—left prison on bond to assist a legal challenge to the arrests. List of Freedom Rider arrests, May 24-May 28 1961. ‘Five Riders Post Bond, 22 Others Still in Jail’, Jackson Daily News (hereafter JDN), May 28 1961, 1.

[13] ‘Report of Meeting’, Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee, May 26 1961. Part 2, reel 3, Southern Christian Leadership Conference papers, Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia (hereafter SCLC).

[14] Branch, Parting the Waters, 139.

[15]Memorandum to Officers of All Branches, Youth Councils and College Chapters, State Conferences from Roy Wilkins, May 25 1961. Part 21, reel 12, National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples Papers, Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia (hereafter NAACP.) Telegram to John Johnson from Thurgood Marshall, May 19 1961. Part 21, reel 12, NAACP. Message clarifying the position of the NAACP regarding the ‘Freedom Rides.’ June 14 1961. Part 21, reel 12, NAACP. By December 1961, the NAACP National Office had adopted an unofficial policy of “bail-not-jail” and assumed an increasingly bitter tone when requests for legal assistance came from imprisoned protesters who had refused bail.

[16] ‘Boss of Prison Reinstated’, JDN, June 2 1961, 1.

[17] ‘US Judge Curbs “Ride” Promoters’, JDN, June 2 1961, 1.

[18]See David M. Oshinsky, Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Free Press, 1996); William Banks Taylor, Down on Parchman Farm. The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999).

[19] ‘Riders May Take a Ride’, JDN, June 4 1961, 3. ‘Riders Taken to Parchman’, JDN, June 15 1961, 1. Frank Holloway, ‘Travel Notes from a Deep South Tourist’, New South, 16:7-8 (July-August 1961), 3-8.

[20] Dion T. Diamond interview, Civil Rights Documentation Project, Howard University, Washington DC.

[21] See for example, James Farmer, ‘Jailed in Mississippi’, CORE-lator, 91 (August 1961), 1.

[22] Taylor, Down on Parchman Farm, 171.

[23] Barnett actually visited the Riders in Parchman himself, see Raines, My Soul is Rested, 128. ‘Jailed Freedom Riders Visited’, CORE-lator, 90 (June 1961), 1.

[24] Raines, My Soul is Rested, 127. Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom. An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), 95-96. The one exception to this was in Jackson City Jail, where the small numbers of prisoners there were allowed cigarettes, books and a much greater level of freedom of movement.

[25] Ibid., 94-95; Peter B. Levy (ed.), Let Freedom Ring. A Documentary History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement (New York: Greenwood, 1992), 81.

[26] ‘Report of Meeting’, May 26 1961. Letter from Wyatt T. Walker appealing for volunteers, June 1 1961. Part 2, reel 3, SCLC.

[27] List of arrested Freedom Riders, May 24-28 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 6 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 9 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 16 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 21 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 23 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 24 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 29 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, commonly known as ‘Freedom Riders’, July 30 1961. All in file 2-144, MSSC-MDAH.

[28] Prison authorities sought out such Riders in the hope that they would ‘defect’ and agree to make damaging statements against the Movement. This apparently only happened in the case of Rev. Richard Gleason, who denounced the Riders when he was told he was sharing a cell with a Rider who had been dishonourably discharged from the US army, ‘Rider Denounces Unsavoury Chums’, JDN, June 5 1961, 1.

[29] ‘Jailed Freedom Riders Visited’, CORE-lator; Branch, Parting the Waters, 484-485; Meier and Rudwick, CORE, 140-142.

[30] Ibid., 140.

[31] See letter from Miriam Feingold to her parents, July 2 1961. Letter from Miriam Feingold to her parents, July 9 1961. Reel 1, Miriam Feingold papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.

[32] Hampton and Fayer (eds.) Voices of Freedom, 96.

[33] Arrest records for the month of July, show that a total of eleven groups of Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson, containing a total of 107 protesters. Of these, 37% were black men; 38% were white men; 16% were white women; whilst the remaining 9% were black women. Persons arrested in Jackson, July 6 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 9 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 16, 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 21 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 23 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 24 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 29 1961; Persons arrested in Jackson, July 30 1961.

[34] This apparent reluctance to brutalise women was far from typical of the Movement’s experiences. In the summer of 1963, June Johnson, Annelle Ponder, Euvester Simpson, Rosemary Freeman, Fannie Lou Hamer and James West were all badly beaten in Winona jail, Mississippi. Although the Winona jail beating was one of the most brutal examples of violence against women, it was far from an isolated event. See Charles Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom. The Organising Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 270-271

[35] Dittmer, Local People, 98.

[36] Generally, those in Parchman did not have the benefit of daily gifts of food, on account of the prison being 130 miles away from Jackson. On his visit to Parchman, Governor Barnett told Farmer, “‘we want you to stay in there and rot…We got to feed you…But we can make that food so damn unpalatable that you can’t eat it.’” This was generally achieved by loading the food with so much salt it was inedible, although glass and cleaning powder were also added on occasion. See Raines, My Soul is Rested, 127, 128.

[37] Just how much financial pressure the Riders created is difficult to estimate: whilst the figure of $250 000 could have been inflated to encourage further hostility towards the Riders, Mayor Thompson actually opposed Davis’s actions, stating that Jackson did not want any such help. He appears to have resented the implication that Jackson could not deal with challenges to segregation by itself. ‘State Will Be Asked To Pay Rider Costs’, JDN, July 14 1961, 1. ‘Davis Still to Ask Help on ‘Rider’ Burden’, JDN, July 15 1961, 1. William M. Kunstler with Sheila Isenberg, My Life as a Radical Lawyer (New York: Carol Publishing, 1994), 102-104

[38] Such a view was expressed by Rev. Ed. King, who argued that, whilst the Freedom Rides were costly to Jackson, the Riders never came close to undermining the determination to imprison the Riders. Interview with Rev. Edwin King, Jackson, Mississippi, March 20, 2000. Recording in author’s possession.

[39] ‘Minutes of the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee’, August 3 1961. Part 2, reel 3, SCLC. Farmer Lay Bare the Heart, 211-212. In October 1963, the vast majority of this bail money was still being held by the Mississippi courts. Letter from Carl Rachlin to Norman Dorsen, October 15 1963, Reel 10, CORE.