The Bail Project / Newsroom (Page 39)

The story of communities coming together to purchase people’s freedom has been essential to every movement for Black liberation and racial justice – from abolition, to the Civil Rights Movement, all the way until the Black Mamas Bailout and other similar efforts of today.

Pooling funds together to purchase someone’s freedom dates back centuries, to when free Black Americans, oftentimes through their church congregations, would pool together funds to free enslaved people.

In the 20th century, bail funds as political tools of resistance began to spring up. In the 1940s, for example, The Civil Rights Congress (CRC)  – a legal defense organization which fought against the death penalty for Black defendants – created a bail fund to assist those charged with “political crimes.”

By 1951, the CRC’s bail fund had amassed around $770,000 and helped raise awareness of a number of cases, like Rosa Ingram’s. They had also freed countless people incarcerated for being suspected political dissidents. However, the CRC’s bail fund was perhaps too effective in fighting back – in 1952, the federal government deemed the bail fund too “subversive” and liquidated it.


Throughout the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, dozens of new funds were created by racial justice organizations to fuel the momentum of activists and ensure that people incarcerated for fighting for racial equity and equality were able to persist.

In 1965, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the NAACP created a bail fund for activists fighting for school integration in Springfield, MA – a northern city that saw a huge increase in the Black population during the Great Migration and subsequently passed a host of anti-Black laws.

Source: MassLive


When 44 Black and white activists were arrested for campaigning in Springfield, CORE and NAACP worked quickly to raise money for bail so that the movement could continue.

These are just two examples of countless bailout actions throughout the 20th century to free activists and ordinary people alike. From serving as a lifeline for social movements to their current use as a potent tool to end mass incarceration, bailouts carry forward the torch of freedom into the 21st century. We’re honored to build on this rich legacy by taking the bail fund model to the next level.

Last month, the entire national team gathered from across the country to celebrate our one-year anniversary and strategize for the road ahead. Luckily, we were able to capture some of the magic on video, which you can watch on YouTube here!


One year in, we’re now operating 11 sites and have secured freedom for over 3,600 people, while helping amplify existing movements to combat mass incarceration.

From Louisville to Spokane, St. Louis to Tulsa and beyond, we’ll continue posting bail until freedom is truly free and the presumption of innocence applies equally to all. Thanks as always for your support, and stay tuned as we gear up to launch our next round of sites in 2019!

The year was 1963, and Dr. King was in Birmingham, Alabama to lead a civil disobedience campaign in one of the most segregated cities in the United States. As expected, Birmingham’s notorious police commissioner, Eugene “Bull” Connor, soon had Dr. King arrested and jailed. It was then, while incarcerated pretrial on $5,000 bail, that Dr. King wrote his seminal “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Rowland Scherman – U.S. National Archive and Records Administration, Public Records

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” he wrote. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. King spent 11 days in jail before A.G. Gaston, a Black businessman, posted his bail.

This was not the first time Dr. King was jailed for leading nonviolent protests against racial and economic injustice, and it would not be the last. He was arrested 30 times over the course of his life, and often held on high bail amounts to prolong his incarceration and force him to take guilty pleas.

Half a century after Dr. King’s tragic death, his vision of racial equality and economic justice is still far from being realized. As we come together to mark his legacy, we’re reminded that what matters most is action in the face of injustice no matter the cost.

Thank you for joining us in the fight against mass incarceration and the criminalization of race and poverty. Together, we will continue challenging this two-tier system of justice  – one bail at a time – until the day freedom is truly free.