Before DeSantis Sent Migrants to Marthas Vineyard, There Were the Reverse Freedom Rides


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POLITICO

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Victoria Bell of Little Rock, Ark., leaves a bus with her 11 children after a trip from Little Rock to Hyannis, Mass., sponsored by a white segregationist group, May 22, 1962. | Frank C. Curtin/AP Photo

In the spring of 1962, David Harris, a short-order cook from Little Rock, Ark., arrived in Hyannis, Mass., a small but tony vacation village located on Cape Cod, best known then and now as the location of the Kennedy family’s summer compound.

Harris, who was Black, traveled to Hyannis in search of work, with funding and encouragement from Little Rock’s White Citizens’ Council, one of many local organizations comprised of middle-class white professionals who, while dedicated to the preservation of segregation, styled themselves as the respectable, moderate alternative to the Ku Klux Klan.

Earlier that year, council members in New Orleans and Little Rock dreamed up a public relations stunt: They would offer Black Southerners bus fare and relocation costs to undertake “Reverse Freedom Rides” to Northern cities, where, they told their victims, good jobs and housing awaited them. The idea was to embarrass and expose the hypocrisy of Northern liberals who cheered the real Freedom Rides, but whom, they suspected, would blanch at receiving thousands of Black transplants in their own communities. Harris was just the first of roughly 100 Black Southerners whom the councils shipped to Hyannis.

In this particular case, the Citizens’ Council had a specific target in mind: Edward M. Kennedy, the president’s younger brother, who was campaigning for a seat in the United States Senate. “President Kennedy’s brother assured you a grand reception to Massachusetts,” the council’s leadership assured them. “Good jobs, housing, etc. are promised.”

Kennedy, a summer resident of Hyannis, called the segregationists’ bluff: He organized a reception for Harris, comprised of local residents who extended a warm welcome.

The story of the Reverse Freedom Rides assumed new meaning this week when > is flush with cash in his reelection bid — he’s raised more than $52 million to date, including $13.6 million in the most recent fundraising quarter. Read more – POLITICO

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