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First Day Covers

are envelopes containing commemorative stamps, appropriate postmarks and

artwork depicting the topic.

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1960 Lunch Counter


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Freedom Riders?


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In 1946 the Supreme Court ruled that segregated seating of interstate passengers was unconstitutional. The next year the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) planned a “Journey of Reconciliation” to test that decision. Sixteen men (eight black and eight white) integrated a bus to travel through the Upper South. Unfortunately they were met with assaults, arrests and jail time as they traveled through North Carolina. Without enforcement of the Supreme Court decision by the federal government, the plan quickly fell apart. Nearly fifteen years later, on May 4, 1961 CORE was ready to try again with a “Freedom Ride”. Would the newly inaugurated president John F. Kennedy support them?

Freedom Riders First Day Covers
(click to enlarge)

Once again riders were met by mobs who beat them and firebombed the buses. Local and state police gave little to no protection to the riders. Attorney General Robert Kennedy tried negotiating with the governors for protection of the riders, as well as working with the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce its own 1955 ruling to desegregate buses and trains crossing interstate lines. Though they risked physical harm, over 300 people served as Freedom Riders, doing what the Supreme Court had ruled they had the right to do. Finally in September 1961, the ICC succumbed to pressure from the Attorney General and implemented its policies to integrate interstate public transportation.

On August 30, 2005 the post office commemorated ten civil rights subjects with stamps, entitled “To Form A More Perfect Union”. Each stamp recognized the courage and achievements of the men and women who fought for equal rights. Stamp designer Ethel Kessler used details from contemporary artworks to comment on the historical events.

How did the Freedom Riders help to form a more perfect union? How did they expand “We the People” to include more people? Fifty years later, what can the memory of the Freedom Riders inspire us to do today?



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