On April 13, 1947, a mob attacked civil rights protesters at the bus station in Chapel Hill. Earlier that year, the Congress of Racial Equality laid plans to test the enforcement of a Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on interstate buses and trains unconstitutional.
On April 9, eight African American and eight white members of the group set out from Washington, D.C., on Greyhound and Trailways buses in what was billed as the “Journey of Reconciliation.” A few days later, the buses arrived in Chapel Hill where the organizers met with students and townspeople. As the buses prepared to depart on April 13, two blacks refused to move to the rear. Upon leaving the buses, several of the protesters were attacked and arrested.
In May, those who had been arrested went on trial and were sentenced. Organizer Bayard Rustin and two white protesters, charged with interference, surrendered at the courthouse in Hillsborough and were sent to segregated chain gangs. Rustin published journal entries about the experience. His writings, as well as the actions of the “Journey of Reconciliation” riders, in time inspired Rosa Parks’ nonviolent protest in 1955 and the Freedom Riders of 1960-1961.
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