Freedom Riders: Award Winning Film About Young People Who Changed History


By Gary A. Johnson

I define the word “courage” as the willingness to act on what you believe to be true.  In 1961, black, white and Jewish young people boarded buses, trains and planes with the goal of challenging and dismantling Jim Crow laws.  These people exhibited courage.  There were students of other cultures involved in the movement.  Most of the students who became known as the Freedom Riders were in their late teens and twenties.  They signed up for bus rides through the southern part of this country knowing that they would be beaten and imprisoned and that they could ONLY react in a non-violent manner.

Think about our lives today.  Is there a call to action or circumstance that would compel you to put your life on the line?  If you were a teenager in 1961, do you think you would sign-up to be a Freedom Rider?  Could YOU get on that bus?

The movie “Freedom Riders” is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961.

From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Wounded Knee, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till), “Freedom Riders” features testimony from a fascinating cast of central characters: the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Rides firsthand.  The two-hour documentary is based on Raymond Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

“Freedom Riders” will premiere on the PBS show “American Experience” May 16th.  Be sure to watch it and encourage other people to watch it learn a piece of history.  Check your local TV stations for the correct time.

For a “sneak peak” at the documentary watch the video below.


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