We Challenged Jim Crow!

Bayard RUSTIN   |   George HAUSER

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We Challenged Jim Crow!


HOUSER, George and RUSTIN, Bayard. We Challenged Jim Crow! A Report on the Journey of Reconciliation April 9-23, 1947. (Newark, N.J.): Fellowship of Reconciliation—Congress of Racial Equality, (1947). Slim octavo, original tan self-wrappers, staple-bound as issued; pp. 16.

First edition of Rustin and Houser's bold report on their 1947 "Journey of Reconciliation," in effect the first Freedom Ride against Jim Crow segregation in a series of interracial trips through the South, citing the arrest of civil rights leader Rustin that led to his sentence of hard labor on a chain gang, a pivotal inspiration for the 1960s Freedom Rides, an exceptional copy in original wrappers.

Bayard Rustin was "one of the great theorists and practitioners of the civil rights movement and a principal organizer of the great 1963 March on Washington" (Washington Post). Rustin, who introduced Martin Luther King, Jr. to Gandhi's practice of non-violent political action, once summed up his activism by saying: ''I believe in social dislocation and creative trouble.'' In 1942, shortly before organizing the first Freedom Ride—documented in We Challenged Jim Crow!— Rustin's nonviolent stance against racist seating on a Tennessee bus "earned him a beating in the police station, which he endured with such Gandhian sang-froid that the frustrated police chief cried, 'Nigger, you're supposed to be scared when you come in here!'" (New York Times).

By the time the 1946 Supreme Court Morgan decision declared Jim Crow segregation of passengers on interstate train and bus travel unconstitutional, Rustin was "a one-man civil disobedience movement… no one who knew him well was surprised when he, along with George Houser, came up with the provocative idea of an interracial bus ride through the South" (Arsenault, Freedom Riders, 28), The two men organized what they called a "Journey of Reconciliation"—trips by an interracial group of volunteers across four states. After the group faced threats and arrests as they learned that the Morgan decision was virtually ignored by drivers, conductors and police, Rustin and two others were sentenced to hard labor on a chain gang. Following his release after 22 days for good behavior, Rustin published an account in newspapers that quickly prompted an investigation into North Carolina's prison camps. That landmark first Freedom Ride, recorded by Rustin and Houser in We Challenged Jim Crow!, was the inspiration and model for the 1960s Freedom Riders. To his biographer, "Rustin was as responsible as anyone else for the insinuation of nonviolence into the very heart of what became the most powerful social movement in 20th-century America" (D'Emilio, Lost Prophet). Published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). Small owner signature above front wrapper.

A fine copy.

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