In 1947, an interracial group of sixteen civil rights activists, including Bayard Rustin and George Hauser, set out to test the Supreme Court’s ruling banning segregation on interstate travel. Known as the “Journey of Reconciliation,” the group of Freedom Riders traveled from Washington D.C. throughout the South, often encountering resistance and threats. When they stopped in Chapel Hill, they faced violence from a group of angry citizens, and were able to take refuge in the home of Rev. Charles Jones, a local minister and social justice activist. The Freedom Riders were arrested and prosecuted for disturbing the peace.
The Journey of Reconciliation was a critical precursor to the Freedom Rides and civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s. The items from North Carolina Collection and the Southern Historical Collection are a powerful testament to the tremendous efforts of a coalition of students, community members, and others who fought to ensure social justice and civil rights for all individuals.
For more details, visit the two part Southern Historical Collection blog covering the 2009 dedication of a highway historical marker to commemorate the Journey of Reconciliation; Part 1 features background information about the participants while Part 2 links various SHC collections (including oral histories) that document parts of the Journey of Reconciliation. See also The Long Road to Parchman: North Carolina and the Desegregation of Interstate Busing, a 2011 program hosted by Derek Catsam or the SHC pre-screening event of the American Experience documentary Freedom Riders.