Route 40 Initiative

These werE the rides I participated in

Desegregate Route 40 Project (Aug-Dec)

Following the Freedom Rides, CORE workers in the border states focused on desegregation of public transportation and accommodations, while those in the North centered their activities on public education, employment, and housing, and CORE chapters in the South concentrated on voter registration.

In Maryland in 1961–1962, the national CORE launched a project to desegregate all restaurants on Highway 40 between Washington, D.C., and New York City. The project was sparked by the arrest and fourteen-day jailing of Juanita and Wallace Nelson for protesting the refusal of a Highway 40 restaurant to serve them. The campaign mobilized several hundred college students to picket Baltimore restaurants and conduct a Route 40 FreedomRide. The political objective was realized with passage of city and state public-accommodation laws in Maryland.

See Baltimore Sit-ins & Protests and Freedom Rides and for preceding events.

As countries in Africa and Asia free themselves from colonial rule, they send diplomats to Washington and the United Nations in New York City. Dark-skinned ambassadors traveling between New York and DC through segregated Maryland are denied service and subjected to the same Jim Crow humiliations as American Blacks. As the owner of one establishment explained after refusing to serve the ambassador from Chad and then physically assaulting him: “He looked just like an ordinary nigra to me.” All of this embarrasses the U.S government. And it undercuts the State Department’s effort to woo emerging nations into the “Free World,” and prevent them from aligning with the Soviets.

US-1 and US-40 are the main highways into DC from the north. When the Freedom Rides force the issue of segregation in inter-state travel to national and international attention, the Feds pressure restaurants on those routes to serve African diplomats, and gas stations to allow them to use the cleaner “white” restrooms. But to be recognized as foreign dignitaries they have to wear traditional garb.

Students at nearby Black colleges dress as Africans and are served. This sparks CORE’s Route 40 Project which systematically desegregates facilities for all Blacks regardless of what they wear. Also involved in the Route 40 project is Baltimore’s Civic Interest Group (CIG) — a SNCC-affiliated coalition of student activists from Morgan State and other local colleges — and the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) from Howard University. The project uses a variety of nonviolent, direct-action tactics including sit-ins, consumer boycotts, pickets and other protests. When CORE threatens a massive Freedom Motorcade in early November, most Route 40 restaurants agree to desegregate.

CORE then expands down US-1 into Virginia and North Carolina (see Freedom Highways in the Tarheel State).

CIG begins organizing “freedom rides” into Maryland’s East Shore (see Cambridge MD — 1962, and Maryland Eastern Shore Project).

For more information on the Baltimore and Maryland Civil Rights Movement:
Web: Baltimore & Maryland
Document: CORE Route 40 Project Flyer [PDF]

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