America Experience Presents: Freedom Riders
The Ella Baker Center is excited to be co-sponsoring an exclusive preview of the new PBS documentary, Freedom Riders on May 11th. Shanelle Matthews, a member of the Ella's Voice Editorial Board reviews the film here:
The industrious fortitude of Jim Crow and the Southern resistance movement against integration led many activists during the civil rights movement to act measurelessly in the name of equality. Vividly recanted, Freedom Riders tells the story of the activists who braved the kind of racism and bigotry we often only half-accurately read about in texts books. Riding on public buses from North to South risking their lives for an equal America they may have never lived to see – the freedom riders were beaten, maimed and killed by lawless, pro-segregation White southerners that had no interest in integrating the South.
Birmingham, Alabama, home of racist extremists like Bull Connor, served as the soul and cultivating home of Jim Crow. Whites and Blacks were explicitly kept apart in public places, creating a tense environment of revulsion and extreme bigotry exacerbated by apathetic politicians who put race relations on the back burner. Aware of the fatal risks they faced, the freedom riders, who were mostly Black and White college students, rode from state to state in a non-violent, peaceful protest of racial injustices.
As young as 19-years-old, the peaceable protesters suffered horrific prejudices. They were belittled and degraded, set ablaze and beaten within an inch of their life to continue fighting a 400-year battle for freedom. Freedom Riders tells us how white southerners often used “heritage” as rationale to kill black activists and were granted lawless freedom by law enforcement to do so.
Freedom Riders stirs the soul and tugs at the heart strings of anybody who has fought tirelessly and fearlessly for something they believe in. It arouses a gamut of emotions forcing you to appreciate the nauseating and real facet of American history that’s been shallowly buried by “post-race” propaganda. A must see for people of all ages and backgrounds, Freedom Riders is a critical recollection of what it meant to fight for the basic right to exist in 20th century America.
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