This Day in History

April 9, 1947: First Freedom Ride

Time Periods: 1945
Themes: Civil Rights Movements
Freedom Riders

Worth Randle, Wallace Nelson, Ernest Bromley, James Peck, Igal Roodenko, Bayard Rustin, Joseph Felmet, George Houser, and Andrew Johnson. Source: Library of Congress

On April 9, 1947, the first freedom ride, the Journey of Reconciliation, left Washington, D.C. to travel through four states of the upper South.

The Journey of Reconciliation was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality with the leadership of Fellowship of Reconciliation staffers Bayard Rustin and George Houser. It followed the 1946 court case of Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia where the Supreme Court ruled: “that segregation in interstate travel was indeed unconstitutional as ‘an undue burden on commerce.'”

Local activist Yonni Chapman (now deceased) and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP were instrumental in getting a marker erected for the freedom riders.

Watch a three-minute clip from PBS, The Pioneers: A Short Film from Freedom Riders.

Watch an excerpt below from the documentary film You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow!, produced by Robin Washington.