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The Australian and American Freedom Rides Essay

This essay briefly discusses the similarities and differences of the ‘Australian and American Freedom Rides’ history. Throughout the essay, there is a discussion on what the reasons were for the protest of the Freedom Rides. It also points out the duration of the protest and the major locations where they were held. The essay also shows the different reactions to the protest and the influential behaviour it results in.

The American Freedom Rides were motivated by the ‘Journey of Reconciliation’ in 1947, “led by civil rights activists Bayard Rustin and George Houser”1. The Freedom Rides in America involved riding a bus opposing the segregation of black and whites riding together in buses2. Racial segregation was made illegal after the Boynton v. Virginia case, especially in major public places such as “restaurants and waiting rooms in terminal serving buses that crossed state lines”3 . After the case, the Freedom Riders defied racial segregation by seeing whether the Boynton v. Virginia case law was followed.

The Australian Freedom Rides were inspired by the Freedom Rides of the ‘African American Civil Rights Movement.’ The reason for the Freedom Rides in Australia (as in America) was to protest against the cruel behaviour of white people towards black people who were living in country towns4. The Freedom Rides in Australia also involved riding a bus just

like America, into New South Wales country towns and protesting in sections where Aboriginal people were rejected; such as being “often refused service in shops, made to stand aside while others were served, confined to their own section in cinemas, banned from clubs and pubs, and excluded from public swimming pools”5.

The Freedom Rides in America consisted of riding into “segregated southern United States”6, it started off at Washington D.C., on May 4, 1961 and planned to reach New Orleans on May 17, “but they never reached New Orleans”7. The Freedom Rides passed through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, finished with a gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana8. The duration of the American Freedom Rides occurred mainly in
May 1961.

Unlike in America, the Freedom Rides in Australia took place later on the 12th February 19659; when the University of Sydney students rode into the “towns in northern New South Wales which contained large Aboriginal populations”10. One of the main towns mentioned was at Moree; where they protested in swimming pools, attracting a lot of violence. The Freedom Rides also passed through Wellington, Gulargambone, Lismore, Bowraville and Kempsey.

The duration of the Australian Freedom Rides occurred mainly in February 1965. In America, the reaction to the protest was very intense. Throughout the protest, the Freedom Riders came across violence and the reaction of the protest was ruthless. While having to delay their journey to change a slashed tire, “one bus was firebombed and the Freedom Riders were beaten (by a white mob).

The second bus was similarly attacked and the passengers beaten”.11 In America, there was a Freedom Ride accompanied by the State Highway Patrol, taking their journey headed for Montgomery; but when “local police failed to protect them, they were again beaten”12. Similar to America, the Freedom Rides in Australia “gained publicity when the students were set upon by angry crowds and placed under police protection”13. The students pressed into the entrance of the Moree swimming pool, at the same time a furious crowd “booed and catcalled”14. The dilemma continued after “27 young men and women from Sydney University tried to escort six Aboriginal children into the baths”15. This was one of the reactions of the Freedom Riders drew attention towards, the segregation at local swimming pools.

Both the American and Australian Freedom Rides protested against the segregation of black and white people; along with racial discrimination that black people experienced. Both of the Freedom Rides took place around the 1960s which was a time of great social and cultural significance. Both of the Freedom Rides resulted with violent behaviour and the general public becoming aggressive. In conclusion, the Freedom Rides were a memorable event in history which argued that racial discrimination should be banned and everyone in society should be accepted.

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