1960 December 5

Supreme Court Rules Against Segregated Bus Terminals

 

In the case of Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court on this day ruled that racial discrimination in the bus terminals (including the restaurants) serving interstate bus travel violated the Interstate Commerce Act. The decision avoided ruling on the constitutional aspects of the issue, however, but the decision set the stage for the famous 1961 Freedom Ride, which began on May 4, 1961, which challenged the continuing racial segregation in interstate bus travel. The 1961 Freedom Ride is one of the iconic moments in the history of the civil rights movement.

The campaign against race discrimination in interstate travel in the segregated south was a long one. Irene Morgan won a Supreme Court decision in Morgan v. Virginia on June 3, 1946, in which the Supreme Court declared discrimination in interstate travel to be unconstitutional under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution (and not the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). That case inspired the first freedom ride,  the Journey of Reconciliation, which challenged segregation in interstate travel in the upper south, and which began on April 9, 1947. The famous 1961 Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961, and encountered vicious racist violence on May 14, 1961.

The Court: “Section 216(d) of Part II of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 316(d), which applies to motor carriers, provides in part: “It shall be unlawful for any common carrier by motor vehicle engaged in interstate or foreign commerce to make, give, or cause any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person . . . in any respect whatsoever; or to subject any particular person . . . to any unjust discrimination or any unjust or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever. . . .”

Learn more about Bruce Boynton: http://cdb-tonatierra.blogspot.com/2012/01/attorney-bruce-boynton-joins-fight.html

Read about the Journey: Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (2006)

Learn more: Hugh Davis Graham, The Civil Rights Era: Origins and Development of National Policy, 1960 – 1972 (1990)

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