MAY 14, 1961

Credit: Joe Postiglione in Wikipedia

On this Mother’s Day, a group of Freedom Riders traveling by bus from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans arrived in Anniston, Alabama. A mob of white men led by a Klansman attacked the bus with baseball bats and iron pipes. They also slashed the tires. 

After the attack ended, the hobbled bus pulled over, the mob hurled a firebomb into the bus, and someone cried out, “Burn them alive.” The riders escaped as the bus burst into flames, only to be beaten with pipes by the mob. 

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth organized several cars of Black citizens to rescue the injured Freedom Riders. The photograph of the Greyhound bus engulfed in flames, the black smoke filling the sky became an unforgettable image of the civil rights movement.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.