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Freedom rides map

Freedom Ride

To show support for the civil rights movement in the United States, and also to highlight the segregation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, a group of students organised the ‘Freedom Ride’, a bus tour of western New South Wales.

The American civil rights movement refers to the human rights movement in the United States that advocated for the recognition of the civil and political rights of African American people, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. America’s history of enslaving African Americans and the implementation of the ‘Jim Crow Laws’, aimed at marginalising black citizens, resulted in widespread and engrained prejudice and violence against African Americans. The civil rights movement saw African Americans, and others, campaign against such discrimination and persecution and assert their right to equality.

In 1960 and 1961, over 400 American volunteers sought to test a US Supreme Court ruling that desegregated bus travel. They did this by travelling on buses in the South, where, despite court rulings that segregation was illegal, in practice, it remained commonplace. These volunteers became known as the Freedom Riders.

To show support for African Americans, and also to highlight the segregation existing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, a group of University of Sydney students formed SAFA –Student Action for Aborigines in 1964. On 12th February 1965, SAFA departed Sydney on their own Freedom Ride. Over two weeks, the group, led by Aboriginal student Charles Perkins, travelled through western New South Wales, challenging local laws that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, documenting segregation and sparking public debate about the inequality faced by Indigenous Australians.