Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders

Five decades after the Freedom Riders put their lives on the line for dignity and equal rights, LIFE.com presents photos made by Schutzer during that heady era in American history. Here are images charting a pivotal moment in the historic journey of Dr. King himself and in the nation-changing movement he led, from the monuments of Washington to the highways, rural roads, churches and bus depots of the Jim Crow Deep South. Learn more in the full gallery at Life.com.

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    Words of encouragement

    Martin Luther King Jr. encourages freedom riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss., 1961.
    Paul SchutzerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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    Throwing stones

    White segregationists hurl stones at a bus carrying freedom riders in Mississippi.
    Paul SchutzerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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    The Freedom Riders

    Freedom riders on a bus in the Deep South.
    Paul SchutzerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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    Riding for freedom

    Julia Aaron and David Dennis, along with 25 other freedom riders and several members of the National Guard, travel from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss.
    Paul SchutzerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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    Challenges

    Just shy of the Mississippi-Alabama border, members of the Alabama National Guard surround a bus carrying freedom riders.
    Paul SchutzerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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