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January 23, 2009
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Freedom's Main Line

The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides

Black Americans in the Jim Crow South could not escape the grim reality of racial segregation, whether enforced by law or by custom. In Freedom's Main Line: The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides, author Derek Charles Catsam shows that courtrooms, classrooms, and cemeteries were not the only front lines in African Americans' prolonged struggle for basic civil rights. Buses, trains, and other modes of public transportation provided the perfect means for civil rights activists to protest the second-class citizenship of African Americans, bringing the reality of the violence of segregation into the consciousness of America and the world. In 1947, nearly a decade before the Supreme Court voided school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, sixteen black and white activists embarked on a four-state bus tour, called the Journey of Reconciliation, to challenge discrimination in busing and other forms of public transportation. Although the Journey drew little national attention, it set the stage for the more timely and influential 1961 Freedom Rides. After the Supreme Court's 1960 ruling in Boynton v. Virginia that segregated public transportation violated the Interstate Commerce Act, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and other civil rights groups organized the Freedom Rides to test the enforcement of the ruling in buses and bus terminals across the South. Their goal was simple: "to make bus desegregation," as a CORE press release put it, "a reality instead of merely an approved legal doctrine." Freedom's Main Line argues that the Freedom Rides, a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, were a logical, natural evolution of such earlier efforts as the Journey of Reconciliation, their organizers following models provided by previous challenges to segregation and relying on the principles of nonviolence so common in the larger movement. The impact of the Freedom Rides, however, was unprecedented, fixing the issue of civil rights in the national consciousness. Later activists were often dubbed Freedom Riders even if they never set foot on a bus. With challenges to segregated transportation as his point of departure, Catsam chronicles black Americans' long journey toward increased civil rights. Freedom's Main Line tells the story of bold incursions into the heart of institutional discrimination, journeys undertaken by heroic individuals who forced racial injustice into the national and international spotlight and helped pave the way for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

About the Author

Derek Charles Catsam is associate professor of history at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. His previous publications include numerous reviews and articles. He lives in Odessa, TX.

Reviews

"Catsam is a master storyteller, and his prose is engaging and captivating. His narrative is reveting, and is written with a dramatic flair befitting the steely determination and the unshakeable convictions of these dedicated activists, none of whose lives would ever be the same after their history-making journey into the heart of Dixie. Meticulously researched and gracefully written, this book is a remarkable achievement and is destined to become an important study of the black freedom struggle." —Robert A. Pratt, author of We Shall Not be Moved: The Desegregaton of the University of Georgia"—Robert A. Pratt, author of We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the Unive

"[Catsam] is presenting an ever-evolving American history, a concept underscored by the presentation of the book and reinforced by our recent election, which has presented us with a moment to look back and forward to the next stage of Freedom's Main Line." —Chattanooga Free Press"

""Freedom's Main Line helps us understand the racial tensions, hostilities, bigotry and discrimination rampant in the 1950s and 60s." —Christian News"

"Freedom's Main Line is based on research in a wide variety of archives and newspapers, and it reflects a solid grasp of the historiography of the era. . . . A well-written account of an important aspect of the struggle for racial equality in the United States." —Virginia Magazine of History and Biography"

"Catsam has given us a history of pivotal political events that honors continuity and change, individual stories and political structures, and leadership and mass mobilization." —North Carolina Historical Review"

"A vivid, readable narrative. . . . Catsam gives a clear sense of what the movement was up against, while insisting that the cost of pursuing justice need not be so high." —Journal of American History"

"Besides being impeccably researched and offering its readers a gripping tale, this multilayered interpretation lifts Catsam's work a cut above most civil rights narratives, all without sacrificing the rich stories of individual participants."—American Historical Review"

"Freedom's Main Line is a compelling, spellbinding examination of a pivotal event in civil rights history, and it should appeal to both a lay and professional audience. By layering the flesh of human interest over well-formed scholarly bones, Catsam has created a highly readable and dramatic account of a major turning point not just in the Civil Rights Movement, but in recent U.S. history."—Journal of African-American History"

"Offers new interpretation of the freedom rides of 1961, arguing that the campaign was central to the transition that occurred in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. . . . A welcome addition." —Journal of Southern History"

"An outstanding narrative of a transformative movement."—American Studies"

"Catsam's highly readable account of both the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation and the 1961 Freedom Rides illustrates the link between both events, but also encourages us to reconsider the timeline and significance of interstate transportation integration in the long Civil Rights Movement."—Southern Historian"—

9780813125114 : freedoms-main-line-catsam
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