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On April 9, 1947, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sent 16 brave civil rights activists, 8 Black and 8 white, to ride together on buses through the American South. Why was this a dangerous and revolutionary action? With the South still in the clenches of Jim Crow laws and etiquette, CORE’s mission was to test a recent Supreme Court decision, Morgan v. Virginia (1946), which had actually struck down segregation on interstate bus travel. This so-called “Journey of Reconciliation” in 1947, a critical precursor to the more known Freedom Rides of the 1960s, lasted two weeks. Throughout that time, riders tried 26 different seating arrangements on various buses across Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Riders were arrested during six of those attempts.

On April 13, 1947, on the last leg of the trip departing from Chapel Hill, NC to Greensboro, NC, four riders (including CORE treasurer Bayard Rustin) were arrested after being attacked by an angry mob. They were tried, convicted, and sentenced to serve 30 days on a chain gang. With their appeal to the Supreme Court denied, three of the Riders surrendered at the Hillsborough Courthouse in March of 1949 to serve their sentence on segregated chain gangs in Roxboro, NC.

75th Anniversary Events

  • Keeping Your Seat to Take a Stand: Sarah Keys Evans & the Fight Against Jim Crow Transportation | On Aug. 1, 1952, six years after the landmark Morgan v. Virginia case in 1946, five years after the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation set out to test its decision, and three years before the better known Montgomery Bus Boycott, 22-year-old Washington, NC native Sarah Keys, a Women’s Army Corps private, was wrongfully arrested in Roanoke Rapids, NC for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white man on an interstate charter bus. Yet, Sarah Keys refused to be intimidated, both that night and throughout the years to come. She saw her case through as it was brought before the Interstate Commerce Commission, with another trailblazer, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, as her lawyer. Finally, in 1955, in the landmark case Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, the ICC favored Mrs. Keys Evans, ruling that the Interstate Commerce Act forbids segregation. Join Carolina K-12, the North Caroliniana Society, and the Sarah Keys Evans Inclusive Public Art Project to explore the courageous actions of Mrs. Sarah Keys Evans with top scholars & community historians. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE RECORDING!
  • The 1947 Journey of Reconciliation: A Long Road to Justice (Fri. May 20) | Click here to listen to an interview about the event
  • See also the Chapel Hill Community History website for event details and related resources.

Funding for these events was provided by Humanities for the Public Good, an initiative at UNC-CH’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Visit Chapel Hill’s Bus Shelter in Commemoration of the Journey

Art + Transit aims to bring more artistic vibrancy to the daily commute and enliven unsuspecting spaces throughout Chapel Hill. As such, since 2018, Art + Transit has been commissioning Triangle-based artists to create art for many bus shelters around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. As part of this initiative, Art + Transit will be commemorating the Journey of Reconciliation at the bus shelter at the Rosemary Street & Columbia Street parking lot. The installation will be completed the week of April 11. 

Teach About the Journey & Related History

Learn More About the Journey & Related History

Sponsoring Organizations of Commemoration Planning & Events