Despite their distaste for history, both Gov. Greg Abbott and his Florida counterpart Gov. Ron DeSantis are giving Americans a history lesson this week. Their spiteful and costly busing, and now flying, schemes that are transporting migrants across the country, reportedly with misleading promises about jobs and housing, are drawing comparisons to a deceitful and racist interstate busing scheme in the early 1960s.
After DeSantis chartered two flights full of migrants this week from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, the John F. Kennedy Library in nearby Boston shared on Twitter photos of old newspaper clippings and archival material about the Reverse Freedom Rides, when the pro-segregation White Citizens’ Council gave Black families one-way tickets north in an effort to “embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people.” Critics saw it for what it was right away: a shameful political stunt, trafficking in, as one Massachusetts mayor put it at the time, “human lives and misery.”
Angered by the Supreme Court’s decision ending school segregation, Southerners organized the network of citizens’ councils in protest. They met in Mississippi just two months after the decision and earned themselves the nickname “uptown Klan” for their restraint in not lynching people outright, but instead imagining up cruel and racist schemes to assert their own presumed superiority, sometimes with state support.