The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject
Collection Title: Gordon (Albert F.) Freedom Rider Collection
Collection Number: M 337
Dates: ca. 1961-1999
Volume: .25 cu.ft.
Albert Forrest Gordon was born to Evelyn and Jack Gordon on June 18, 1934 in Antwerp , Belgium . The family escaped from the Nazis after the beginning of World War II; they arrived in New York City a few days after Pearl Harbor . He received his BA from City College of New York (CCNY) and his MA from Columbia University . He returned to Europe and completed one additional year of study at the University of Paris before returning to New York to teach high school (Stuyvesant, among others).
Gordon joined the fledgling teachers' union in New York City (NYC) in 1960 and was a strike captain during the breakthrough that established the United Federation of Teachers. He likewise participated in the first picket lines at NYC hospitals led by Leon Davis, which resulted in establishing Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers' Union . During the Vietnam War, he helped organize the national movement in opposition to that war and was arrested several times at demonstrations.
Gordon joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) after the first civil rights protests in Greensboro , North Carolina in 1960. He was a history teacher at Tilden High School in Brooklyn, New York when, in 1961, CORE financed his trip, along with nine other people, from NYC to Jackson, Mississippi by bus to participate in the "Freedom Ride." The project involved riding desegregated buses from Montgomery , Alabama to Jackson , Mississippi , and integrating the bus terminal facilities to protest the unfair treatment of African Americans in the South. During this period, much violence was directed at such activists, often with police collaboration. Gordon recalled the fear all the "riders" felt when confronted by crowds of threatening segregationists; above all, he remembered the magnificent camaraderie and passion of the black and white demonstrators.
He was arrested at the Trailways Bus Depot along with fellow Freedom Riders in Jackson , Mississippi on July 9, 1961 . According to arrest records, the group of white passengers (including Gordon) entered the "colored" waiting room and refused to leave when police asked them to do so. After their arrest, the Freedom Riders were charged with "Breach of the Peace," and sentenced to six months in jail. After a thirty-nine day incarceration at the state penitentiary at Parchman, Gordon was released on bond on August 8, 1961 . His conviction was ultimately reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States .
During his civil rights activist and labor organizing days, as well as semesters of teaching history, Gordon traveled widely. Between 1962 and 1968 he hitchhiked across Europe and Africa , where he first encountered African art. He then opened Tribal Arts Gallery in Manhattan , where he became the first wholesaler of African art in the United states . A second gallery, adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art , dealt with individual collectors. He continued to travel throughout the years, making more than fifty trips to Sub-Saharan Africa to obtain the sculpture for his galleries.
Gordon closed Tribal Arts in 1985 and began a "semi-retirement." During this time, he ran a presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire for Larry Agran, published a Peace Dividend newsletter, began writing a book on collecting African art, worked on a documentary film in Mali , established art trade relations with Vietnam , and served in the Peace Corps in West Africa .
In 1998 Gordon reentered the art scene by becoming the co-owner of Origins Gallery in Stockbridge, Massachusetts . He currently divides his time between Stephentown , New York and Manhattan , and continues to spend several months a year traveling.
Folders 1-3 consist of photocopies of Albert Gordon's arrest record and report, including the police files and mug shot taken at the time of his arrest on July 9, 1961. Digitized items from this folder include the following:
Folder 4 contains the FBI files on the Freedom Riders, which detail every move made by the group from the time they arrived in Montgomery until their subsequent arrest in Jackson. Digitized items from this folder include the following:
Folders 5-7 are comprised of a typed Freedom Rider case file list and photocopies of the actual case files for each of the people on the list. Also included is a typed list of Freedom Rider cases that were appealed, as well as additional information taken from the Riders at the time of their arrest.
Folders 8-10 consist of investigations and reports of Freedom Rides performed from June 14, 1961- April 19, 1962. Of particular interest are the minutes and reports from the state penitentiary board meetings that give information about the incarceration of the Freedom Riders.
Folder 11 contains photocopies of newspaper articles that appeared in Jackson, Mississippi newspapers regarding the arrests of Freedom Riders.
Folder 12 is comprised of a newsletter from Origins Gallery, which is co-owned by Albert Gordon, and a photocopy of an article that appeared in the periodical Northeast in June 1998. The two materials give information about Albert's life and work, and a recent photograph appears in the article.
This collection should be of value to researchers interested in the Freedom Rides and the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.