The transfer of about 50 immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, begun this week by Florida’s governor, has revived memories of strikingly similar tactics used by southern segregationists 60 years ago.
In 1962, a group of conservatives, bent on retaliating against desegregation efforts during the civil rights movement, funded one-way trips north for black citizens, in what they called “reverse freedom trips.”
Hundreds of black Americans were taken to cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, where they were recruited by members of a discriminatory group called the Council of White Citizens, with false promises of jobs and housing.
One destination point was Hyannis Harbor – a village on the Cape Cod Peninsula – where the largest group of riders arrived in the spring of 1962 before they were offered temporary housing at Camp Edwards near Otis Air National Guard Base.
In what many condemned as the same tactic, the group of immigrants that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent to Martha’s Vineyard this week has been moved to the same Cape Cod military base to receive shelter and humanitarian support.
“Reverse freedom riding is not well known among many, and it is important to understand that this tactic of using people as political pawns was used 60 years ago by segregationists and white supremacists,” explained Tanesha Sullivan, president of the NAACP chapter in Boston.
“It’s important for us to amplify and highlight this parallel, so that people can see this kind of racist behavior and these racist tactics still being used today,” she added.
The group, Lawyers for Civil Rights, wrote in a news release that the immigrants on Wednesday’s planes did not know they were being transported to Martha’s Vineyard specifically, and were urged to board the planes with “representations to help work and immigration relief in Boston.”
Although DeSantis asserted that he arranged for the flights, the immigrants were in Texas, not Florida. For months, DeSantis has been talking about his plans to involve Florida in rerouting immigrants from the southern border in a way that increases heartburn for Democratic leaders.
His administration secured $12 million in the state budget to pay for the resettlement of immigrants, and he has repeatedly threatened to use the money to send them to liberal strongholds. Martha’s Vineyard wasn’t expecting the group, and the decision was vigorously decried by the White House, immigrant advocates and Democratic officials. DeSantis has also been criticized by government officials and citizens in his state for using Florida taxpayer money for this purpose.
DeSantis’ move is part of a series of actions by Republican governors, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, to move immigrants to northern liberal cities and so-called blue states in order to protest the Biden administration’s policies on the southern border.
The two governors have been frequent opponents of President Joe Biden on immigration and his policies on the southern border since taking office. Biden attacked the governors’ tactics and accused Republicans of “playing politics with people” and “using them as props.”
Representatives of the John F. Library painted. Kennedy’s presidential quickly draws historical parallels between the escalating battle between the leaders of the Red State and the Biden administration over the US-Mexico border and the revival of Freedom Ride Reverse, a parody of Freedom Ride organized by the 1961 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
To embarrass northern liberals and humiliate blacks, southern white citizens’ councils began so-called “reverse freedom trips,” giving blacks round-trip tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and a better life, He recounted the library in a tweet.
At that time, the administration of President John F. Kennedy mails from leaders in the targeted states, asking the federal government to intervene in the “cruel and merciless hoax” orchestrated by apartheid advocates.
“If they pay for their passage in human lives and misery, their attitude will undoubtedly change,” read one of the letters that surfaced in the library, which referred to southern segregationists.
The White Citizens Council was designed to “ride the reverse freedom,” at one time “the most powerful organized political force to oppose racial integration,” says historian Clive Webb, a professor at the University of Sussex in England, Written in an academic essay on Freedom’s Reverse Journeys published in 2004.
Webb writes that these games were used to restore some political power to the Council of White Citizens and were formed in part as a response to white businessmen, civic leaders, and fathers who They saw that complete opposition to desegregation would harm their societies.
The strategy of the White Citizens Council was to use Reverse Freedom Tours “as a public relations exercise that would at once politically embarrass their northern liberal critics and thus re-establish their support among southern whites”. Northern politicians and newspapers denounced the ride as cruel and inhuman.
White Citizens Council members in New Orleans and Little Rock, Arkansas, have been instrumental in organizing the trips, according to the article. The campaign was first launched by George Singleman, who recruited black families through ads promising “free transportation plus $5.00 expenses for any Negro man or woman, or family (no size limit) who wished to immigrate to the nation’s capital, or Which city in the north they choose,” Webb wrote, citing one of the ads.
He also recruited white citizens’ council members in prisons and announced their “services” to the NAACP. The group made promises to help black families find jobs, and in other cases, secured jobs waiting for them in their new cities, according to Web research.
The White Citizens Council campaign continued until 1963 after support dwindled and funding ran out, according to the article.
Webb concluded that “the most cruel aspect of the Citizens Council campaign is that it has undermined the only means by which some poor African Americans can endure the oppression of their lives, which is a sense of hope.”
Webb wrote that the suffering of black citizens who migrated north on the Reverse Freedom Journeys “starkly manifests itself” in the events in Hyannis, where 96 black Americans were sent over the course of several months.
By 1965, all but one of the families remained in Hyannis after the riders soon found out that the jobs promised to them did not exist, according to his article.
said Dr. Tracy Parker, professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and an expert on the civil rights movement.
“It’s all very similar. It makes you wonder what the rules of the game are that DeSantis is playing with.” Parker commented. “That’s really part of the history of bigots, of white supremacists who want nothing to do with people of color.”
Another similarity is that many black families who left the South on the Reverse Freedom Trips did so freely, because they believed they would find better jobs and “escaping the horrors of living under an oppressive regime like Jim Crow,” Parker added.
Parker stressed that lessons learned from previous Reverse Freedom Journeys led to a rush in the community on Martha’s Vineyard to welcome and assist displaced immigrants as soon as they arrive.
Cities on the island, as well as community and non-profit groups, have joined efforts to provide assistance to immigrants with donations, shelter, food and care, according to a post by the Dukes County government on Facebook.
The response from the Martha’s Vineyard community came as no surprise to those actively involved in civil and human rights issues in Massachusetts, according to the NAACP’s Sullivan, because the island has historically been open and welcoming to newcomers.
“Parallels with Freedom’s Reverse Journeys are important to continue to advocate, not just to raise awareness, but to amplify the importance of remembering our collective history; the aspects that bring us joy and pride, as well as the aspects that bring us shame,” Sullivan said.
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