EJI MAY 21st, 1961: National Guard Disperses White Crowd Threatening Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

MAY 21st, 1961

National Guard Disperses White Crowd Threatening Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama

On May 20, 1961, Freedom Riders arriving in Montgomery, Alabama, were attacked by a white mob and several suffered serious injury. On the evening of May 21, more than 1000 black residents and civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth attended a service at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church organized by Rev. Ralph Abernathy to support the Freedom Riders. A white mob surrounded the church and vandalized parked cars. From the church’s basement, Dr. King called United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and requested help. United States Marshals soon arrived to dispel the riot; the growing mob pelted them with bricks and bottles. The marshals responded with tear gas.

Source: Equal Justice Initiative

This incident could have been far bloodier if MLK didn’t have a friendly Attorney General on speed dial. Or if the federal government had declared it a state matter.