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.
From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, 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. “I got up one morning in May and I said to my folks at home, I won’t be back today because I’m a Freedom Rider.” It was like a wave or a wind that you didn’t know where it was coming from or where it was going, but you knew you were supposed to be there. — Pauline Knight-Ofuso, Freedom Rider
They got on the bus!
On the evening of Wednesday, April 13, more than 1,100 members of the west central Florida community came together for a special premiere of the FREEDOM RIDERS, airing on WEDU and PBS stations nationwide at 9 pm on Monday, May 16th.
Commemorating 50 years of this landmark civil rights movement, Dr. Ray Arsenault, who wrote the book from which the film is based, and the Freedom Riders in attendance helped WEDU bring the spirit of this film, and important moment in history, to life for young, old, black and white members of the audience – free of charge.
A sold-out house embraced the story of the heroic Freedom Riders as the film was screened at one of Tampa’s most treasured historical landmarks for arts and culture – The Tampa Theatre. The Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church Choir, the Freedom Riders in attendance, and the historical significance of this film being shown in a theatre that banned African Americans just a few decades ago made the event that much more poignant. It was a perfect match for the PBS mission and the efforts of WEDU to connect and engage with the community it serves. A specific point of pride was when Dr. Ray Arsenault announced that this premiere was the largest in country and possibly the world!
Video and images from the film premiere, post screening discussion and the HART Tampa Civil Rights Bus Ride, will be posted here soon.
Were you there? Have a story to share about civil rights? Please let us know by clicking on the Share Your Story tab!