The relocation of migrants by Republican governors recalls painful memories of the 'Reverse Freedom Rides'
CNN —The relocation of about 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, initiated last week by Florida’s governor, has revived memories of strikingly similar tactics employed by southern segregationists 60 years ago.
As news of the relocation spread, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library quickly drew historical parallels to the Reverse Freedom Rides during the Kennedy administration.
In 1962, a group of conservatives, intent on retaliating against desegregation efforts during the civil rights movement, funded one-way trips to the north for Black citizens.
Ron DeSantis to Martha’s Vineyard this week eventually had to be transported to the same Cape Cod military base to receive shelter and humanitarian support.
“Reverse Freedom Rides are not well known among many people, and it’s important to understand that this tactic of using people as political pawns was used 60 years ago by segregationists and White supremacists,” explained Tanisha Sullivan, president of the NAACP Boston branch.
Martha’s Vineyard had not been expecting the group, and the decision was sharply denounced by the White House, migrants’ advocates and Democratic officials.
Reverse Freedom Rides conceived by segregationistsThe Reverse Freedom Rides were conceived by the White Citizens’ Council, at one point “the most powerful political force organized in opposition to racial integration,” historian Clive Webb, a professor at the University of Sussex in England, wrote in an academic article on the Reverse Freedom Rides published in 2004.
White Citizens’ Council members in New Orleans and Little Rock, Arkansas, were instrumental in organizing the rides, according to the article.
Members of the White Citizens’ Council also recruited at prisons and advertised their “services” to the NAACP.
The White Citizens’ Council campaign continued until 1963 after support dwindled and funding was exhausted, according to the article.
A Venezuelan migrant reacts as he is led onto a bus at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Sept. 16, 2022, in Edgartown, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard.
Miami Herald/Tribune News Service/TNS/Getty ImagesBut the lessons learned from the earlier Reverse Freedom Rides led to the community in Martha’s Vineyard rushing to welcome and help the displaced migrants as soon as they arrived, Parker stressed.