The relocation of migrants by Republican governors recalls painful memories of the ‘Reverse Freedom Rides’ | CNN Politics


The relocation of nearly 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida’s governor last week has revived memories of a similar strategy employed by Southern separatists 60 years ago.

As news of the relocation spread, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library acquired historical parallels with the Reverse Freedom Rides during the Kennedy administration.

In 1962, a group of conservatives, intending to retaliate against secession efforts during the civil rights movement, funded one-way trips to the north for black citizens.

Hundreds of black Americans were moved to cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, recruited with false promises of jobs and housing by members of a separatist group called the White Citizens Council.

One of the targeted destination points was Hyannis Port – a village on the Cape Cod peninsula – where the largest group of riders arrived in the spring of 1962, before they were provided temporary accommodation at Camp Edwards near Otis Air National Guard Base .

In a tactic condemned by many, Ron DeSantis, a group of migrants sent by the Florida government, was moved this week to the same Cape Cod military base in Martha’s Vineyard to finally find shelter and humanitarian aid.

“Reverse freedom rides are 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 separatists and white supremacists,” said the NAACP Boston branch. President Tanisha Sullivan explained.

“It is important for us to amplify and highlight that parallel, so that people can see that this type of racist behavior and these racist tactics are still being used today,” she said.

Migrants on Wednesday’s planes didn’t know they were being taken specifically to Martha’s Vineyard, and were prompted to board the planes with “representation of work assistance and immigration relief in Boston,” The lawyers’ civil rights group wrote in a news release.

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Although DeSantis confirmed it had arranged the flights, the migrants were in Texas, not Florida. For months, DeSantis has been talking about his plans to get Florida involved in redirecting migrants from the southern border in a bid to maximize outrage for Democratic leaders.

His administration secured $12 million in the state budget to pay for migrant resettlement, and he has repeatedly threatened to use the money to send it to liberal strongholds. Martha’s Vineyard was not what the group was expecting, and the decision was sharply condemned by the White House, migrants advocates and Democratic officials. DeSantis has also come under fire by public officials and citizens of his own state for using Florida taxpayer dollars for this purpose.

DeSantis’ move is part of a series of actions by Republican governors, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, to move migrants to northern liberal cities and so-called blue states to protest the Biden administration’s policies on the southern border.

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Since taking office, the two governors have been persistent opponents of President Joe Biden over his policies related to immigration and the southern border. Biden attacked the governor’s strategy, accusing Republicans of “playing politics with humans” and “using them as props.”

Representatives from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library pointed to parallels in the escalating battle between Red state leaders and the Biden administration on the US-Mexico border and the revival of Reverse Freedom Rides, a parody of Freedom Rides organized by Congress. Racial Equality (CORE) in 1961.

“In order to embarrass northern liberals and humiliate black people, Southern white civic councils launched their so-called “Reverse Freedom Rides,” allowing black people one-way access to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing and a better life. Ticket given. The library said in a tweet.

At the time, President John F. Kennedy’s administration received mail from leaders of targeted states asking the federal government to intervene in a “brutal ruthless fraud” organized by separatists.

“If they pay the cost of their traffic in human lives and misery their attitude will undoubtedly change,” read a letter surfaced by the library, which refers to Southern separatists.

The Reverse Freedom Rides were conceived by the White Citizens Council, at one point “the most powerful political force organized in opposition to racial integration,” wrote historian Clive Webb, a professor at the University of Sussex in England, in an academic article. Reverse Freedom Rides, published in 2004.

Webb wrote, the ride was used to restore some of the political power of the White Citizens Council and was formed as a response to white businessmen, civic leaders and parents. saw that complete opposition to secession would harm their communities.

The White Citizens Council’s strategy was to use the Reverse Freedom Rides as “a public relations exercise that would once politically embarrass their Northern liberal critics and thereby re-establish their support among white Southerners.” Northern politicians and newspapers condemned the ride, calling them cruel and inhumane.

According to the article, members of the White Citizen Council in New Orleans and Little Rock, Arkansas were instrumental in organizing the ride. The campaign was first started by George Singelman, who recruited Black families through advertisements that offered “free transportation plus an expense for any Negro man or woman, or family (no limit on size)”. $5.00 in response to those who wish to immigrate to the nation’s capital, or any city, of their choosing,” Webb wrote, citing an ad.

Members of the White Citizens Council were also jailed and advertised their “services” to the NAACP. According to Webb’s research, the group promised to help black families find jobs and, in other cases, guaranteed jobs await them in their new cities.

According to the article, the White Citizens’ Council campaign continued until 1963 after support dwindled and funding ran out.

Webb concluded, “The most brutal aspect of the Citizens Council campaign is that it undermines the only means by which some poor African Americans can withstand the oppression of their lives, their sense of hope.”

Webb wrote that the suffering is “most clearly illustrated” by the suffering of black citizens migrating north on the Reverse Freedom Rides, where 96 black Americans were sent over the course of several months.

His article states that by 1965, the riders soon learned that all but one family were left in the Hyannis.

The riders were forced into immigration by the White Citizens Council and told they should contact the federal government, the NAACP or the National Urban League in an attempt to “embarrass” President Kennedy, said Dr. Tracy Parker, a professor at Afro. -Specialist in American Studies and the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Massachusetts.

“It’s all very similar. It makes you wonder what playbook DeSantis is playing with.” commented Parker. “It’s really part of the history of the larger white separatists with nothing to do with people of color. want to do.”

Another similarity, Parker said, is the many black families who left the South on reverse freedom rides because they believed they would get better jobs and “avoid the horrors of living under an oppressive regime like Jim Crow.”

But lessons learned from earlier reverse freedom rides have inspired the community at Martha’s Vineyard to welcome and help displaced migrants as soon as they arrive, Parker stressed.

According to a Facebook post by Dukes County Gov., community-based and non-profit groups, along with the towns of the island, joined the effort to provide migrants with donations and assistance with shelter, food and care.

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According to Sullivan with the NAACP, the reaction from the Martha’s Vineyard community was not surprising to those who have been actively involved in civil rights and human rights issues in Massachusetts, as the island has historically been open and open to new people. welcomes.

“The parallels to the Reverse Freedom Rides are important not only to raise awareness, but to continue to increase the importance of remembering our collective history; the aspects of it that bring us joy and pride, as well as the aspects of it that embarrass us.” do,” Sullivan said.

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