American Experience Series
May 16, 2011
“Freedom Riders is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.”Freedom Riders tells the story of one of the most memorable events of the Civil Rights Movement – the Freedom Rides into the Alabama and Mississippi. I will admit, I knew about this event, but not too much in terms of details. This episode was sure to change that. They went through this momentous event on a semi day by day in depth look that followed the participants throughout the south. They went into the lead up to the decision to take this non-violent action as well as the events coming at the tail end of the ride (national news coverage, carrying the momentum into the prisons, and what the ultimate result was).
There were some great selections made in who they interviewed. As you would expect from this series they interviewed people who were participants in the Freedom Rides, but there were other less thought about interviewees as well. There was a daughter of a man who attacked the Freedom Riders (as a young girl she went out to help those who were injured). There was a liaison to Attorney General Robert Kennedy who was in constant contact with the President and AG as well as being right in the thick of things. They even had an interview with the former governor of Alabama, John Patterson, who was politically right in the middle of the Freedom Rides. I thought the comments by Patterson were some of the most enlightening – he stood against the Freedom Riders during the time, but seemed to have much less of a hard line viewpoint today.
There was also other media that was included. There were several interactive maps that would allow the viewer to see where they were going. They showed footage of the different stops on the ride as well as some of the action against the riders. There was news footage from other countries that I thought was pretty cool – Cuba and Russia – I had never really thought of how the other countries of the world would react to events here at home. I also thought that this episode tied into the previous week’s episode of Soundtrack to a Revolution because they played additional songs that were utilized during this event – I liked how they would change up songs to fit different scenarios (and also about how you can sing without opening your mouth when you can’t brush your teeth!).
Overall I thought that this was a very enlightening episode. I never realized how complex and how many days this covered. Paired with the episode last week I had more appreciation for the music and some of the other aspects of this movement.
Here is the trailer – and if you missed the show it is available online to watch.
There are some great additional resources to go along with this episode – a timeline for the Civil Rights Movement, an exploration of the issues that were important to this movement, as well as an interactive map of the Freedom Rides. You can also follow the 2011 Student Freedom Ride online.
Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court