Freedom Riders

In May 2011, PBS will be premiering the film Freedom Riders. Featuring testimony from 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. As the Freedom Riders website notes:

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.

I’m sharing this with you now because the website also is an excellent resource you can use for African-American History Month. You can learn about the rides through an interactive map that shows routes, locations, and events; meet the people involved through biographies, photos, and video clips; and explore the issues that fueled the movement. The site also offers a timeline of important events. Resources guides for teachers will be available in February.

You may also be interested in the related traveling exhibition offered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The panels present “a detailed narrative of the Rides … illustrated with vivid archival photos and newspaper clippings that document this pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement.” The exhibition includes companion audio that allows visitors to hear eyewitness accounts of the Riders.