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The Rebel Army

Soldier with rebel flag patch

Update 6/8/2020: This missing photo above is due to a link gone dead. I originally linked the image from the Life/Google page where it lived, but it’s no longer there, and I haven’t been able to find it yet. It’s a color photograph of presumably an American soldier who is supposed to be protecting the Riders in Alabama, though he wears a Confederate flag patch on his sleeve.

Life magazine has just released its photo archive to the web — about 10 million images, most of which have never been published — on a site hosted by Google. I quickly searched for photographs from the Freedom Rides, and found several images that are new to me. The one above was shot by Joseph Scherschel, a staff photographer for Life and also National Geographic (he died in 2004).

I’ve never seen a U.S. Army uniform bearing a Stars & Bars patch. The information on the Life/Google site only indicates the picture was made in May 1961, but not where or on what day. I suspect but can’t prove this soldier was among those accompanying the Riders on the first two buses from Montgomery, AL, to Jackson, MS, on May 24.

The soldiers were there to protect the Riders, who had been viciously attacked three times by mobs in Alabama. But the site of Rebel Flag bearing soldiers must have been cold comfort for the Riders.