Freedom Riders at PSU Recalls an Important Story

March 29th, 2011 by Adam

By 1961, the Supreme Court had ruled many segregation laws unconstitutional, including the provision for white and black travel facilities. Beginning in May of that year, more than 400 “freedom riders” descended on the South, challenging local norms with a simple, non-violent protest. They were met with hatred and physical assaults, but their stories became part of the legacy of the civil rights movement.

Fifty years later, their story is recounted in the PBS documentary, “Freedom Riders.” A special screening of this film is scheduled for 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 13 at Plymouth State University’s Boyd Hall Auditorium. The free screening is followed by a discussion of issues raised in the film as well as the context in which the freedom rides occurred. For more information about the screening, call 535-2525.

Originally screened at the Sundance Film Festival, “Freedom Riders” is scheduled to premiere on PBS in May as part of the network’s “American Experience series. A trailer can be seen here.

The initial Freedom Rides were organized by the group Congress of Racial Equality. By the summer of 1961, a number of other groups had also joined the movement, sending racially-integrated busses into southern towns and transportation centers, challenging local and federal officials to uphold the law and the riders’ constitutional rights. In addition to encountering violence, more than 300 riders were jailed, some on actual charges and some to “keep them safe.” While their struggle was an important part of the civil rights movement, there are still lessons to be learned today.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or