Freedom Riders fight for Civil Rights
In May of 1961, Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr. was a young music major at Tennessee State University. He decided to get on a bus and become what is known as member of the the Freedom Riders which is now known as a major event in civil rights history.
As a Freedom Rider Rip Patton rode in buses composed of racially mixed groups that were activists that defied segregation laws across the deep South. Although courts decisions had already outlawed racial segregation, many laws stubbornly remained. Often times violence was used to enforce those laws.
Many Freedom Riders were beaten by angry mobs. Buses were firebombed and a lot of people felt they had ran their course. Patton was on a mission. Despite all the obstacles he pressed on to try to make a difference for his generations well as future generations.
Many historians feel the Freedom Riders efforts transformed the civil rights movement. They set out heading towards the deep South to defy Jim Crow segregation laws and call for change. They were often met by hatred and violence. The sad part was that many times local police refuse to intervene.
Despite being backed by federal rulings that it was unconstitutional to segregate bus riders, the Freedom Riders met with obstinate resistance in Birmingham and Montgomery, where white supremacists attacked bus depots themselves.
Essentially, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives simply by traveling together on buses and trains in attempt to integrate the deep South. Rip Patton boarded a bus in Montgomery and rode to Jackson, Mississippi where he was arrested.
Following the Freedom Rides, Patton worked as a jazz musician, a long-distance truck driver and community leader. He continues his work in civil rights. He travels throughout the country participating in discussions concerning his experience as a Freedom Rider. Stetson University College of Law presented Patton with an honorary doctor of law degree in 2010.