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Original chess set is restricted; access is by permission of curator only.
This collection consists of a diary, documents, photographs, and a chess set. All relate to Carol Ruth Silver’s experience as a Freedom Rider in 1961 and a commemoration of that experience during a 40th year celebration in 200l.
Cite as:T/040: Silver (Carol Ruth) Collection.
Carol Ruth Silver was born October 1, 1938, in Boston, Massachusetts. She spent much of her early life in Boston. In the late 1950s, Silver was a student at the University of Chicago, where she was involved in picketing Woolworth stores in Chicago in sympathy with the sit-ins taking place in the South. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 1960 and became a clerk at the United Nations in New York. In 1961, Silver joined the Freedom Riders—a group composed of mostly college students—organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The group went into the South to challenge illegal segregation laws on interstate travel. On June 8, 1961, a group of Freedom Riders that included Silver was arrested by the police of Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, for failing to obey state laws of segregated facilities in an interstate bus station and breach of peace.
Silver was convicted in Hinds County Court for breach of peace on June 8, 1961. She was sentenced to four months in prison with two months suspended and fined two hundred dollars. Silver was incarcerated in Hinds County jail until June 23, 1961, when she was transferred to the state correctional institution at Parchman, Sunflower County, Mississippi. She was released from Parchman on July 14, 1961. Following her release from prison, Silver entered law school at the University of Chicago. While in law school, she organized the University of Chicago Law School chapter of the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council (LSCRRC). In 1964, Silver graduated from law school and became the first full time intern for LSCRRC in the law offices of Civil Rights attorney Floyd McKissick in Durham, North Carolina.
From 1965 until the early 1970s, Silver worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity, organizing programs for legal services for the poor in California and elsewhere. She also spent summers working with the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee (LCDC). Silver was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University and was a member of the faculties of San Francisco State University, Golden State University, and Lone Mountain College, all located in San Francisco, California. Silver’s legal career focused on assistance to the poor and other unrepresented groups. In 1975, she began her political career and was elected for three terms as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1978 to 1989. She ran unsuccessfully for the United States Congress in 1996. Following this loss, Silver retired from politics.
After leaving politics, Carol Silver devoted her life to social causes and family. In San Francisco, she founded the Chinese-American Bilingual School, which taught preschool through 8th grade in Mandarin and English. In 1973, she adopted a son, Steven, from Taiwan, and in 1976 she gave birth to a second son, Jefferson. Silver organized the 40th reunion of the 1961 Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2001. She also served on the Board of the Master Teachers by Satellite for Afghanistan. Silver is now retired and lives in San Francisco.