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Carol Ruth Silver

Carol Ruth Silver was one of the first two white women to be jailed in the Freedom Rides, an experience that sparked a career in law and politics, fighting for the rights of others. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1960, where she first became involved in the civil rights movement, Silver went to work as a clerk at the United Nations. Before entering law school, she chose to travel South as a Freedom Rider. Arrested with her five companions in Jackson, Mississippi, she spent forty days in jail, later publishing her diary from that time as Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes from Parchman Prison in 2014. She graduated law school in 1964 and spent her post-law school internship working for the African-American attorney Floyd McKissick, who later became head of the Congress for Racial Equality. From 1977–1989, she served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, working with LGBT pioneer Harvey Milk on important legislation. She founded San Francisco’s first Mandarin Chinese immersion school in 1982. Since 2002, she has traveled to Afghanistan numerous times to support and promote education, especially of women and girls. As of 2014, she devotes her energy to her pro bono educational projects.


Thanks to the Archive for this article, but I must correct something -- I was the second white woman arrested among the Freedom Riders -- the first was Elizabeth Wyckoff, a former professor of Greek at Mt Holyoke College, who was arrested a few days earlier. She and I were the first two white women, after tens of other Freedom Riders has been incarcerated, but not the last. We were followed by many others, black and white, swelling the jail and prison populations of Mississippi beyond the wildest expectations of the Governor of Mississippi. Posted June 7, 2016 (exactly 55 years to the day from my arrest in Jackson) Carol Ruth Silver

Hi Carol, We have updated your profile to reflect these changes. Thank you so much for reaching out to us and helping us keep the historical record accurate!

Carol Ruth Silver in Birmingham, Alabama, May 2000
Full image

Activist Carol Ruth Silver in Birmingham, Alabama, May 2000.

Courtesy of Carol Ruth Silver.

Date of Birth
October 1, 1938
Place of Birth
Boston, Massachusetts

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Carol Ruth Silver." (Viewed on January 21, 2019) <>.


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