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Welcome to the Office of Continuing Education's
Tribute to the Freedom Riders

To test President Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights, the Congress of Racial Equality proposed a "Freedom Ride." The strategy: an interracial group would board buses destined for the South. The whites would sit in the back and the blacks in the front. At rest stops, the whites would go into blacks-only areas and vice versa.

The Freedom Ride left Washington DC on May 4, 1961. It was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17, the seventh anniversary of the Brown decision. The Freedom Riders never made it to New Orleans. Many spent their summer in jail. Some were scarred for life from the beatings they received. But their efforts were not in vain. They forced the Kennedy administration to take a stand on civil rights, which was the intent of the Freedom Ride in the first place. The Freedom Riders may not have finished their trip, but they made an important and lasting contribution to the civil rights movement.

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On October 18th, 2004, The Project 500 Reunion Committee and The Brown verses the Board Commemoration Committee at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana invited the Rev. Ben Cox, Hank Thomas and Ed Blankenheim to share their experiences as three of the original 13 Freedom Riders who made the historic trip that sought to desegregate public transportation, public restrooms, waiting rooms, and restaurants.

The Office of Continuing Education at the University of Illinois invites the public to relive the amazing experience through personal stories, quotes, news clippings, photographs, and videos of the three original Freedom Riders. Presented as an online exhibition, the material collectively captures what life was like for these revolutionary men.



Office of Continuing Education
302 East John Street, Suite 202
Champaign IL 61820
217-333-1462 or 877-455-2687