Ceremony apologizes for wrongful convictions of four Freedom Riders in 1947
On the 75th anniversary of the wrongful arrest of four “freedom riders” in Chapel Hill, Chief District Court Judge Samantha Cabe and District Court Judges Joal Broun, Sherri Murrell and Hathaway Pendergrass took turns reading a statement apologizing for the miscarriage of justice that occurred in 1947.
The Statement from District Court was read May 20 at a public event in the Hillsborough Courthouse recognizing the 75th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides in 1947. The Journey of Reconciliation, an interracial freedom ride organized by Bayard Rustin and George Houser to protest Jim Crow bus segregation, came through Chapel Hill in April 1947.
As the riders attempted to board a bus to continue the journey to Greensboro, several were removed by force and were attacked by angry cab drivers. Four of the Freedom Riders--Andrew Johnson, James Felmet, Bayard Rustin, and Igal Roodenko--were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to move from the front of the bus. Following a trial in Orange County, the four men were convicted and sentenced to 30 days on the chain gang.
The Courthouse program, entitled “The Long Road to Justice: The 1947 Journey of Reconciliation,” featured a keynote address by UNC Law Professor Gene Nichol, Freedom songs performed by Mary D. Williams, spoken word poetry by CJ Suitt and remarks by former Public Defender James E. Williams, Jr.
- Click here to read the statement.