Monday, January 28, 2013

James Zwerg and the Freedom Riders

James (Jim) Zwerg

Born November 28, 1979 in Appleton, Wisconsin

Was known for being a Civil Rights Activist, and a member of the Freedom Riders.  He lived with his Mother, Father and brother Charles and was very active in the Christian Church. Jim was taught that all men are equal no matter what color they are.He became interested in civil rightsthrough his roommate Robert Carter, who was an African American from Alabama.

Freedom Riders and Jim Zwerg 

 The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was who began to organize these so called Freedom Rides. The first Ride Went from Washington DC, involved thirteen black and thirteen white riders who rode into the South challenging White Only lunch counters and restaurants. Annison is the town in which one of the busses was ambushed and attacked. Meanwhile, at a SNCC meeting in Tennessee, Lewis, Zwerg and eleven other volunteers decided they would be the reinforcements. Zwerg was the only white male in the croup in TN. He recalled: 

"My faith was never so strong as during that time. I knew I was doing what I should be doing"

  After Zwerg was arrested for not moving to the Blacks only section of the bus, three days after, the riders regrouped and headed to Montgomery. Zwerg was first off the bus, where his suitcase was grabbed out of his hands and smashed into his face until he fell to the ground. Another man stopped and put Zwerg’s head between his knees so others could beat him. The attackers knocked his teeth out and showed no signs of stopping, until a black man stepped in and ultimately saved his life: Zwerg claims;

"There was nothing particularly heroic in what I did. If you want to talk about heroism, consider the black man who probably saved my life. This man in coveralls, just off of work, happened to walk by as my beating was going on and said 'Stop beating that kid. If you want to beat someone, beat me.' And they did. He was still unconscious when I left the hospital. I don't know if he lived or died."


Zwerg was denied prompt medical attention because there were no white ambulances available. He remained unconscious for 2 days and stayed in the hospital for 5 days. He said he had had an incredible religious experience and God helped him not fight back and that he was at peace, a peace he never again felt in his life. In a speech he gave, in his hospital room hes said

"Segregation must be stopped. It must be broken down. Those of us on the Freedom Ride will continue.... We're dedicated to this, we'll take hitting, we'll take beating. We're willing to accept death. But we're going to keep coming until we can ride from anywhere in the South to any place else in the South without anybody making any comments, just as American citizens."


Zwerg later on was presented with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Freedom Award. He is now a retired minister and lives in Arizona with three children... 



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